Monday, December 04, 2006

2006 NCAA Football Season Summary

Whew, that was a great regular season of NCAA football! So great, in fact, that I didn't actually take any time to blog about it. Sorry about that. But now that it is over, I guess it's time to see how my predictions are going thusfar.

I Said: SEC football is where it is at.
Result: Dead on. Of course, who would argue that? Okay, maybe some people would - but not the intelligent ones. There were so many good SEC football games this year, I don't even know where to begin. So I won't.
The disappointment of the year has to be Auburn. When these guys are clicking, I still think they are the best team in the SEC. But they didn't put it together week after week, quarter after quarter. Hats off to Florida and Urban Meyer (who I like) for winning the SEC and a title bid.

I Said: The PAC-10 is overrated.
Result: Pretty much true. USC is good - but they lost to Oregon State and UCLA (?). Who knows about anyone else. We'll find out in the Rose Bowl.

I Said: Notre Dame games are usually a good bet.
Result: Whoops. I should have looked at their schedule. Are you serious? I'm sure they can get a better schedule than that.

I Said: The Big 10 and Big XII are also good.
Result: Mixed. The Big 10 is really more like the Big 2 (I can't take credit for that, but I don't know who to give it to). The Big XII has been pretty unpredictable, but the Texas v. Texas A&M game was great!

I Said: Utah State is terrible.
Result: Yep. Ranked 118th in the nation. At least they won a game, although it might have been by forfeit.

I Said: BYU is not nearly as good as they think they are.
Result: BYU is probably not as good as they think they are - but they are pretty darn good. They deserve their #20 ranking.

So, now we are gearing up for the title game. As much as I like to see an SEC team in the title game, I have to say that Michigan got robbed here. Sorry. And if USC had beaten UCLA, I would still feel the same way. So what if it is a rematch of the earlier game? The national title game should be between the two best teams in the country, and there should be no way that you go down in the polls simply because you don't play one week.

So, here are my predictions for the bowl games - at least the ones I care about:
  1. Ohio State v. Florida - Ohio State. True, they haven't seen speed like the SEC. But Ohio State is a dang good football team. Florida is not consistent enough, and too error-prone. Sorry Urban.
  2. Notre Dame v. LSU - LSU. How Notre Dame got invited to this game is beyond me. They are just not nearly so good as LSU, and with this game essentially being a home game for LSU, they have the definite advantage.
  3. Boise State v. Oklahoma - Oklahoma. Boise State may be undefeated, but they are from the WAC. Utah State is also from the WAC, if that means anything. Unfortunately, this will be great fuel to the fire that says mid-majors shouldn't go to BCS bowls.
  4. USC v. Michigan - Michigan. They barely lost to Ohio State, the best team in the country, by 3 points. USC lost to Oregon State and UCLA, both unranked.
  5. Arkansas v. Wisconsin - Arkansas. Outside of Ohio State and Michigan, the rest of the Big 10 are at varying stages of fair. As a general rule, I will always pick the SEC over just about anyone.
  6. Auburn v. Nebraska - Auburn. At least, Auburn should win it, if they bring their A-game. See the rule above.
  7. Tennessee v. Penn State - Tennessee. Again, see rule above.
  8. Cal v. Texas A&M - Cal. This is a tough call and should be a great game to watch.
  9. BYU v. Oregon - BYU. I saw them play live this year - they are really good.
  10. Utah State v. North Dakota Culinary & Drama College - ND C&D. Actually, I hear they only have ten people on the entire team, including coaching staff and cheerleaders. But it doesn't change my pick.
So there you have it. We'll check back in a month and see how it played out!

2007 Supercross Series Half Bad Boy Race Report - Toronto

The Half Bad Boy Race Report - the decidedly biased, not-necessarily-true, fun-to-read supercross race report

Well, the 2007 Supercross series got off to a rip-roaring start this past weekend in Toronto, Canada. So far the season is looking like a good one; Chad Reed won the first main event of the season, forcing the television announcers to pull out their programs to figure out who this guy is as they learned that James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael are not the only two people racing.

Stewart caught Reed about halfway through the main and they diced back and forth for several laps. Completing lap 18, Stewart was barely ahead of Reed when he pulled in front of Reed and brake-checked him going up the face of the finish line jump. Reed ran into the back of Stewart, causing Reed to roll the jump while Stewart jumped off the track completely.

Reed then took over the lead, while Stewart, in a very James-Stewart-esque move, pulled directly into oncoming traffic without looking. Travis Preston landed from the double and had nowhere to go - he T-boned Stewart directly, causing both to crash. Stewart was able to remount and continue, while Preston was out of the race.

After the race, Stewart dropped his bike to the ground and then fell to the ground himself, grabbing his ankle and rolling around on the ground like a European soccer star. Travis Preston walked over to tactfully explain to Stewart that Stewart is an idiot, but before he could make his case, he was escorted off the floor by official JC Waterhouse and the rest of the James Stewart entourage.

After the race, Erin Bates interviewed Jeremy Albrecht, Stewart's mechanic, who summarized the incident thus: Stewart went off the track. Since Stewart is better than everyone else, every other rider is expected to accomodate him and avoid crashing into him at all costs. So Stewart naturally expected Travis Preston to turn his bike in mid-air and not crash into him. They were both very disappointed in Preston, as well as all the other riders who could have had anything to do with his failure to win.

Albrecht and Stewart then filed three unsafe riding complaints:
  1. Against Ivan Tedesco, for "riding underneath the place where James wanted to land."
  2. Against Travis Preston, for "landing from a jump in the place where James wanted to drive sideways."
  3. And against Chad Reed, for "winning the race when James wanted to win instead."
I'll let you know how this all plays out.

(Some or all of this may not be true. In fact, it may be a complete lie. For example, James Stewart might not actually be a big baby.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Upset About Microsoft/Novell?? Take A Pill!

Sorry to write a technical article on the Half Bad Boy Blog. I hope you can bear with me. Its just that the general reaction to this whole Microsoft/Novell agreement is so baffling that I really need to talk about it.

I'm assuming you are familiar with Open Source and Linux, the freely-available and freely-created operating system which is one of the flagship open source offerings. The community of developers and users behind open source are a particular and idealistic group, not necessarily all of the same mindset, but with some generally common goals. Among them: The idea that the rights of a person to use and even modify software should be unrestricted; the passion to create high-quality, great, useful software products; and the belief that the movement is ultimately unstoppable.

And when you think about it, it is unstoppable. Linux is truly a great operating system - secure, stable, powerful, fast, versatile, and actually quite easy to use. It is a strong competitor to Microsoft Windows - better at Windows at some things, not better at others. Yet. But there are only really two main ways for a company like Microsoft to compete with Linux - on price and on features. Since Linux is free, Microsoft cannot beat Linux on price - unless they start paying people to use Windows. And with thousands of developers around the world working on Linux for free, there is ultimately no way that Microsoft can compete on the basis of features.

The effect of open source is the commoditization of software. Interesting projects will draw more developers, leading to better software, making the project more interesting, etc. The process snowballs, and once it gets to a certain size, it is pretty much unstoppable. The licensing and intellectual property laws protecting it ensure that this is the case.

Linux is beyond this point. It is not better than Windows, yet. But there is no stopping it. Eventually the computer operating system will become a commodity, and we can thank Linux for it. Microsoft won't be able to make money there anymore.

Those of us involved in the open source movement know this. We have foreseen this for years. We understand the effect of the movement. For years people involved in open source have viewed Microsoft as the enemy, because they are the antithesis of everything the open source community stands for (with the possible exception of quality software - and some would even disclaim that exception). Those involved in open source have for years said that the movement would ultimately mean the demise of Microsoft's business models, and the death of Windows as we know it today.

Surely these people don't think they knew something that Microsoft didn't. Right? Right???

Come on, people. You had to know that Microsoft would know this. Whatever you may think of Microsoft as a company - ruthless, shady, cutthroat, etc. - you surely don't think they are stupid. They realized the same things you did, long ago. They must have figured out, long ago, that eventually they will have to adjust their business plan to align themselves with this movement. They would have to do that or die.

You would think that any step that Microsoft would take in such a direction would be a sign of a clear victory. It should be viewed as a sign that the day finally came - the day when Microsoft realized they had to figure out how to play nicely with open source in order to survive. This should be viewed as the day open source won - the day when technology works on open source's terms, not the other way around.

That is what I find baffling about the reaction to this deal. The most logical explanation for this decision, on Microsoft's part, is that they realized that they needed to do this to remain relevant. Why else would they be willing to pay Novell $348M to enter into this deal? Many so-called open source experts have said that Microsoft is doing this in order to take over Linux. Hello, people! They can't do that, because of the licensing of Linux. For so-called open source experts, you sure don't understand open source very well.

Some people were initially upset about this arrangement because they were sure it violated the GPL. They were sure of this despite the fact that both Novell and Microsoft have many experienced, paid intellectual property lawyers on staff to make very sure that no such violation existed in the agreement. Now, they are upset because they think the arrangement should be a violation, even though it apparently isn't (IANAL).
I find this pretty interesting because of prior experience I've had with people regarding the GPL. I can't recount how many times arguments I've had with people over the GPL have included them saying some variant of the phrase, "Well, that is not what the GPL is intended to mean."
If you want to play in the realm of law and intellectual property, you have to play by the rules of the game, and one of the rules of the game is that a copyright license covers exactly what it states that it covers. Intent is of no significance.

I could go on and on here, but I won't. To summarize, my point here is simply twofold:
  • This agreement should be viewed as a win for the open source movement. Novell's stated objectives are to promote and protect open source. Microsoft's stated objectives are harmony and interoperability. The most logical explanation for this is that Microsoft needed to make this move to remain competitive.
  • Any parts of this agreement that you think violate the GPL are more likely a) your incorrect assumptions based on information you don't have, or b) your misunderstanding of copyright law such that the GPL should mean what it is meant to mean, and not necessarily what it says. Frankly, you pretty much need to just shut up and deal with it. You are being pretty presumptuous to assume that you know more about law than paid corporate IP lawyers.

I'm still waiting to see an argument against this that actually holds any water. Until then, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. The principle of Occam's Razor implies that the most logical explanation is likely the right one - and the most logical explanation is nothing but positive for the open source movement. Take a pill and relax.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Trip To India

I've been meaning to blog about a trip I took to India a few months ago, and I finally decided, "Matt, just get that sucker done."

My employer sent me to Bangalore, India for a week at the start of the summer on a training engagement. Whether we should have gone is not really the subject of this blog. I know it was really expensive.

I remember the day my boss came to ask me to go. I suspected I would be asked to go, since I am the newest member of the team (and the least important). Most everyone else had already been to India before, and of those of us that hadn't, some were already booked to go to China the week prior to my trip. The ones that had already been weren't too keen on going again, and since they are more important, they could make me go instead. If you think I'm being mean to the people of India, I'm not - read on and you will understand.

Here are some of the things you have to deal with in order to take a trip to India.
  1. US Passport. Apparently, this is to convince the United States that they can let you leave. I don't quite get that. But I do know that if your employer is short-sighted enough as to not really plan well for your international voyage, it will cost somewhere around $185 to get a passport in a timely fashion (like, about 1 week).
  2. Indian Visa. This is where you try to convince India that, since the United States is convinced that they don't care whether you leave, India should be happy to take you.
  3. Shots. I had shots for diptheria, tetanus, hepatitis, polio, etc. I can't remember them all. I am still having follow-up shots. One has to ask, how is it that the Indian people seem to survive just fine, but us Westerners have to get completely medicated in order to survive? My guess is, they are tougher than we are.
  4. Medication. I had to get some anti-malarial horse pills, along with a prescription to Ambien to try to help me adjust to the time change (more on this failed experiment later).
  5. Entertainment. I bought a 30Gb Creative Zen Vision M just for the occasion - and I used it, buster.
I was starting to understand why people don't want to go to India. Then the travel began, and I really started to understand.
India is a long ways away. I know you know that, but if you've never gone that far you don't quite get it. It is so far away, in fact, that if you go any farther you are coming closer to home.

Here is how the trip to India went:
  • Fly from Salt Lake City to Cincinnati. Actually, we had the choice of Cincinnati, New York, Newark, Atlanta, etc. It doesn't really matter. This is an inconsequential portion of the trip.
  • Fly from Cincinnati (or wherever) to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Try to sleep, since it is nighttime in India, even though it is just the afternoon in Salt Lake City. Take an Ambien, wake up four hours later, and feel groggy for four more.
  • Oh, by the way - if you ever have to fly through Charles de Gaulle, DON'T. What a nightmare.
  • When you land in Paris, you are just over halfway there!
  • Fly from Paris to Bangalore. Try to stay awake since it is daytime in India. Suffer from lack of thirst. Resolve to take bottles of water in your carry-on luggage next time (and then, months later, wonder if you will be able to due to new flight regulations and the potentially explosive properties of water).
  • Land in Bangalore - and be amazed.
Truly amazed. Not repulsed. Not shocked. Amazed.

Don't get me wrong. Bangalore is not really all that much like Provo, Utah. For one thing, Bangalore has much fewer Suburbans, Excursions, and 12-passenger vans. Bangalore also has many more auto-rickshaws than Provo. Also more motorcycles - but most of them are smaller and less powerful than even my Kawasaki KX 250. Traffic is insane. Traffic laws seem to be more like guidelines or suggestions. People are everywhere, even in the middle of the night.

You may ask, is it dirty in India? Yes, it is. But it is also very beautiful. Sorry, you will have to go there to see what I mean.

We checked into Le Meridien, which is highly recommended, if you can afford around $300 per night. I hooked up my laptop and called my family via Skype. They asked why I waited so long, and I explained to them that I had just barely arrived (some 30 hours later).
I then tried to sleep. I learned the hard way that my antimalarial medication has a side effect of keeping you awake. So instead of my Ambien keeping me blissfully asleep for 8 hours, it had the effect of causing me to sleep for around 3 hours, and then I would be groggy for the remainder.

This is how most of the trip went for me. I was always tired during the day. Horrifically tired. Taking microsleeps in class, unintentionally, when I wasn't doing the training. Then nighttime would come and I would struggle to get any sleep. By Thursday I had completely given up on trying to adjust my schedule and was just trying to get sleep whenever I could.

So far the trip sounds mostly like torture. It wasn't. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I would not trade it for anything.
The singular biggest reason for this is the people. The people of India are simply great people. I could not believe how polite, friendly, and kind they were. This was true with hotel staff, restaurant staff, people in the training sessions, taxi drivers, shop employees - they were all very helpful and polite.
Of course, some readers would say that these people were all like this because I was their customer. This is not an untrue statement. However, I have also been the customer of similar people in the United States - I've stayed at hotels, gone to restaurants, ridden in taxis, etc. Rarely do I get this kind of service here.

I also got some great mementos. I picked up some jewelry for my wife - true amber jewelry along with star sapphires - some knick-knacks for my kids, and a hand-carved sandalwood chess set for myself. I will probably never play chess with it. It is great to look at.
I'm well aware of the concept of negotiating price in India. I saw hand-tied silk rugs that I could buy for $200. I was told that they take three months for one person to create. I did not take economics in college, but I'm no idiot. I know that you can't have a business if you pay your employees more than you bring in revenue-wise. So I know that person who ties those rugs is making less than $800 a year. Considering the amount of money I make, I simply lost the heart to negotiate price. I felt I shouldn't do that when I've been given so much.

I can't explain what an awesome experience it was to go there. I will never forget it - ever. The people were amazing to meet.

And the travel is the absolute pits. I am a large man - 6'2" and about 215 pounds. Not enormous, but large. I'm not really fat either. I mean, I have some extra insulation in certain regions, but mostly I'm just broad-shouldered and big. Cramming me into coach is simply inhumane. I was shoved into a seat against the side of the plane all the way from Paris to Los Angeles on the way back. The only thing more uncomfortable than sitting there was trying to get out. I had literally no legroom - my knee was crammed up against the seat in front of me. I stayed there, getting warmer, getting smellier, starving to death because they are feeding me this crappy French food.

Being in India was an experience I will never forget. I will always be grateful for that opportunity. Travelling to and from India was also an experience I will never forget. It was torture.
Overall, my trip to India was an unforgettable experience that I will always be grateful to have had, and one I don't look forward to repeating. At least not in coach.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy, mateys!

Avast, ye scurvy bilge rats. Seein's how today be International Talk Like A Pirate tide, 't seem'd that 't be a good idee t' include a short entry about meself, were I be a pirate.

Me pirate name:

My pirate name is:

Dirty Sam Cash

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Me pirate personality:
You are The Cap'n!

Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some slit the throats of any man that stands between them and the mantle of power. You never met a man you couldn't eviscerate. Not that mindless violence is the only avenue open to you - but why take an avenue when you have complete freeway access? You are the definitive Man of Action. You are James Bond in a blousy shirt and drawstring-fly pants. Your swash was buckled long ago and you have never been so sure of anything in your life as in your ability to bend everyone to your will. You will call anyone out and cut off their head if they show any sign of taking you on or backing down. You cannot be saddled with tedious underlings, but if one of your lieutenants shows an overly developed sense of ambition he may find more suitable accommodations in Davy Jones' locker. That is, of course, IF you notice him. You tend to be self absorbed - a weakness that may keep you from seeing enemies where they are and imagining them where they are not.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Pirate resources:
English-to-Pirate translator

Learn your pirate name

Pirate personality test

Until next September 19 - yo ho, me hearties!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

2006 Football Preview and Guide

Glory be, it is finally football season again. And here, just a few days late, is the Half Bad Boy 2006 Football Preview and Guide.

First, the NFL football guide. Who cares. Watch whatever you want. They are mostly a bunch of criminals and spoiled brats anyway, but at least with helmets on you can mostly avoid looking at their faces.

Okay, now that the NFL is out of the way, we can get to what we all really care about - NCAA Football. Here's some guidelines for watching NCAA Football.
  1. The SEC is the definition of football. Auburn. Arkansas. Tennessee. Florida. South Carolina. LSU. Alabama. Georgia. Ole Miss. This conference always seems to have at least one title contender. Can you just imagine trying to go undefeated in conference play in the SEC? Any SEC game is a good one.
  2. Generally avoid any PAC-10 matchup if you can help it. The PAC-10 is the most overrated conference in all of football, and watching it will cause you to erroneously think that those teams are really good. With the exception of USC, most of them are not as good as everyone seems to think (witness the recent 35-18 rout of #23 Tennessee over #9 Cal last Saturday). Exception: watching a real conference destroy a PAC-10 "opponent" is good fun.
  3. Notre Dame games are usually a good bet. With their high-profile TV contract, these guys usually draw a great opponent every week, from all across the country. And with Charlie Weis directing things for the next 10 seasons, this really good team will only get better.
  4. Other good football conferences are the Big 10 and the Big XII. The ACC is okay, and the Big East is overrated - but not nearly so much as the PAC-10.
So, in general, prefer the SEC or the Notre Dame game. Avoid the PAC-10 game. Check out the Big 10 or the Big XII to see if there is a game you shouldn't miss. That should keep you busy for the weekend.

A couple of other pointers. First, a BYU-Notre Dame matchup is usually good fun. BYU likes to make this into a "religious war" of sorts. I don't think Notre Dame really views it that way. The facts are, Notre Dame is usually orders of magnitude better than BYU, so they usually win, which causes many BYU fans a bit of consternation.
Actually, any game where BYU will probably be destroyed is generally a lot of fun.
Outside of that, don't concern yourself much with any conferences west of the Rockies. The PAC-10 is overrated, as I said, but at least they can blame the stupid media for that. The MWC and the WAC, however - well, they overrate their own selves. Nobody else thinks they are that good. There are some obvious exceptions (Utah in 2004 for example), but one good team does not a conference make (USC and the PAC-10 for example).
Don't concern yourself with the Utah State game, if it is even on TV. Sadly, my alma mater is pathetic at football. If you are cheering for USU, you will just become frustrated; if not, you run the risk of witnessing an embarrassing upset if the improbable should happen.

Bottom line, stick to the SEC, Notre Dame, and key Big 10 and Big XII matchups and you will have a very satisfying season of college football.

Predictions? Well, what do I know? Nothing. I'm not a sportscaster. But hey, they seem pretty clueless also - after all, they are the ones who keep saying that the PAC-10 is good!
I won't name teams. I'll just say the following - this is how it SHOULD be:

First - if any SEC team goes undefeated, they deserve a national title shot. They have the toughest conference in all of football (including NFL, excluding possibly the AFC West).
Second - if Notre Dame goes undefeated, they also deserve a national title shot. They play top teams from many different conferences, having to adjust to many different styles of offense and defense. Tough.
Lacking that, my guess is that the national champion will be the conference champion from either the Big 10 or the Big XII.

Of course what we might get is another matchup against USC, since it is much easier to run the table in the PAC-10. Which will be fine in one sense, in that we get to watch them lose again. But it will also mean that another deserving team gets shut out (think Auburn and Utah 2004), which is a problem.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Ultimate Office Layout

Recently at work, a mail thread has been going around about the "Ultimate Office Layout" for software developers, which basically consists of some hogwash about how much better it is to stick all the developers together in one large room, with tables instead of desks, so they can interrupt - er, I mean, collaborate with each other whenever they feel like it.

BS, I say. This is a ploy by subtle managers to convince their engineers that this is the great, new way for a better workspace. They do this by using words like "collaboration" and "productivity." In reality, it is a scheme to control the employee populace by making it so they can be observed all the time. Hey, why not make us stand up all day long? And program using Commodore PETs? Why not display the contents of my monitor up on a large screen where everyone can see? Why not make me only use the telephone if it is on speaker?

Ugh. I don't buy into it. Good engineers know how to work well and they don't need some new-age high-productivity layout to do it - and lousy ones will be lousy regardless. Fortunately, my employer has not bought into this garbage. Yet.

But they might need some counterpoints, some ideas with which to refute this nonsense. Thus, I present to you, the ultimate office. Please pardon the crude drawing.

Description of The Ultimate Office:
1. The primary monitor - a 100" screen from a front-projection monitor in the ceiling near the center of the room.
2. The secondary monitor - another 100" screen like the first.
3. Center 7.1 surround channel - two 6 1/2" woofers and one 1" horn tweeter.
4. 7.1 surround satellites (left and right) - one 6 1/2" woofer and one 1" horn tweeter.
5. Media cabinet with PCs and media server, 7.1 surround sound receiver and amplifiers, audio mixer.
6. 7.1 rear satellites (left and right) - one 6 1/2" woofer and one 1" horn tweeter.
7. 7.1 rear speakers (left and right) - two 6 1/2" woffers and one 1" horn tweeter.
8. Recliner/office chair.
9. Primary work space.
10. Whiteboard discussion/meeting space.
11. Love seat (preferably leather).
12. Sofa (again, leather).
13. Microwave.
14. Refrigerator.
15. Kitchenette w/ sink.
16. Round table for meetings.
17. Door - solid wood, with no windows, that closes.
18. Very large whiteboard.
19. Light dimmer switch.
20. Bookcase.

Oh yeah. I can see myself getting a lot of work done in a place like that, for sure.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Ears Are Ringing

Okay, not really. I mean, not anymore. But my voice is still gone. I saw Journey and Def Leppard last night in concert, with Amber, Greg, and Stephanie, and it was KILLER.

Journey opened. I'd seen them before, a couple of years ago. Journey is a great live act. Don't go expecting a bunch of touchy-feely heart-melting love songs, though. You'll get a couple of them, but Journey live is a first-class arena rock concert. I have to say that Jeff Scott Soto, filling in for Steve Augeri at lead vocals, did an outstanding job. Journey was awesome, leaving some big shoes for Def Leppard to fill - which they almost did, but not quite.

Still, Def Leppard live is a fantastic experience. There is something really magical and polished about their delivery, with each song feeling like it's own unique showpiece, produced to an exacting method. This does have the effect of causing it almost to feel NOT like a concert. I'd never seen Def Leppard before, and it was really awesome.

Best songs of the night:
Star-Spangled Banner (Neal Schon - Journey)
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' (Journey)
Lights (Journey)
Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
Escape (Journey)
Chain Reaction (Journey)
Separate Ways (Journey)
Let It Go (Def Leppard)
Hysteria (Def Leppard)
Rocket (Def Leppard)
Photograph (Def Leppard)
Armageddon It (Def Leppard)
Rock Of Ages (Def Leppard)

Best song of the night - Rock Of Ages. Hands down. That song was MEANT to be played live.

And to think - I could have been at LinuxWorld, heading a Birds of a Feather session. Hmm. Sorry, but I'll take the concert any day. Thanks, Journey and Def Leppard, for giving me a reason to not go. And to that poor sucker who had to go instead of me - well, thanks too.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pastrana Flips Twice - At The Same Time

In case you hadn't heard, Travis Pastrana made history at the 2006 Summer X-Games when he pulled of the first-ever double back flip in freestyle MX competition.

He also made history by riding his motorcycle without injuring himself, although he apparently did blow his knee out later by walking on it.

You can't help but like Travis, but at the same time he has been a pretty big disappointment. The 2000 125cc AMA National Champion and 2001 125cc AMA Supercross Champion could have had a huge impact in Supercross. He could have continued what McGrath started, taking the popularity of Supercross to a new level, because of his great personality and riding skill. Instead, he is so distracted by so many other things, like freestyle MX, that we'll never know what could have been.

Still, if you haven't seen this video, you'd better give it a look. It's pretty awesome.

(Head on over to for more X-Games videos.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rules for Driving

Well, since I gave you the rules for parking, I thought I probably ought to also supply the rules for driving. Like the rules for parking, if you are a half bad boy, you already know these rules.

By the way, I wish to assert the belief that anyone who drives stupidly and thus causes road rage that escalates into a tragic circumstance shares some of the responsibility. No, I don't know if I really believe that.

1. Don't speed in residential areas. Hey, there are kids at play. Do I really need to explain this one? Nobody thinks you are a stud for speeding through the neighborhood. Mostly, we think you are a jerk.
2. Pay attention to the speed limit - and drive it. Nothing causes me more road rage than someone who isn't driving the speed limit, blocking traffic.
3. The left lane is for passing. Not simple cruising. This is mostly for people in Colorado who suffer from CDD. Hey, Coloradans - get out of the fast lane!
4. Know where you are going before you leave. This might seem obvious but if you have ever driven a car in Utah or Idaho you know that it is not. People will be driving down the road, two lanes each way, in the right lane, and suddenly decide they need to turn left. Right now. Did they forget where they were going? Or did they just decide?
5. Driving is not a contest. If someone passes you, it is not a personal attack. Really.
6. Don't make unprotected left turns across heavy traffic. This is how accidents happen. Turn right and go the "long way." You'll find it is probably actually quicker. (BTW, "unprotected" = "lacking a traffic sign or light that gives you right of way.")
7. Horsepower is a safety feature. It gets you out of trouble in a pinch. So floor that sucker! When the light changes, get a move on! We're waiting back here.
8. Your car is a reflection of your personality. You drive a Citroen 2CV? I don't know what to say about you.
9. If you have an awesome stereo, you can listen to whatever you want as loudly as you like.
10. When you are done driving and get home, park in the garage. The garage is not a big storage shed for all your crap. If you can't fit your car in the garage, get rid of some crap. Yes, I know this sounds like a rule for parking. It kind of crosses over.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rules for Parking

If you are a half bad boy, you already probably know the rules for parking. But you might be an aspiring half bad boy; a half bad boy in training; a padowan learner. Fear not, aspiring youth. Read on, and you will know how to park like a true half bad boy.

1. The enemy of a good spot is the perfect spot. Are you one of those people who agonizes over trying to determine the absolute closest spot available? Stop it - you are embarrassing the rest of us. Just pick a spot and park. Who cares if it is an extra 50 feet from the door? You could use the exercise.
2. Don't wait for people. Unless the parking lot really is empty, don't wait for people to vacate a spot. Now, I'm not talking about failing to yield to people who are actually backing out when you get there. I'm talking about sitting there, blocking traffic with your turn signal on, waiting for them to get into their car and leave. If you had just taken that spot about 100 feet ahead, you would already be in the building by now. You are wasting everyone's time.
3. Prefer a spot in front of the door - even if it is not the closest. Why is this? Simple - you will always know where your car is without having to remember.
4. Park correctly. This means parking straight, within the spot, not obstructing traffic or other parking efforts, etc. People will judge you by your parking prowess - at least, I will (you lame-parker, you). Oh, and another thing - only one spot per car, please. Only experienced half bad boys know the intricacies of how to get away with quad-parking. Leave that to the experts.
5. Exceptions for really dope rides. You have an H2? Really? Or a blinged-out Escalade on 22s? Or a Ferrari? Man, you are a half bad boy. You can park wherever you want.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to Play Sim Survivor

I figured since I mentioned Sim Survivor last time, I should tell you how to play.

It is really quite easy.
  1. Create a new family with eight people in it. We would do more than eight but families can only have eight people in them.
  2. Start a game with this family in a home that you will build.
  3. When you build the home, focus only on exterior walls. The home should have a fridge inside and a front door. Carpet, wallpaper, furniture, bathroom, beds - all optional.
  4. When the home is built, get everyone to go inside the home. Then pause the game and remove the door.
  5. The game is on! Eventually you will run out of money and there will be no food in the fridge.
  6. The last person still alive is the winner. Enter the cheat code to give them $1M, and then give them some food - fast!
  7. Now that they have won, they can blow their $1M on crap, just like the winners of real Survivor do.
Some considerations:
  • The spartan game (empty rectangular house with a single fridge) is interesting enough, but adding some creature comforts, like a toilet, one or two beds, or a couch can make things more interesting. This way, some of the Sims will be more rested than others, more happy, etc.
  • Building a smaller house increases the likelihood of unhappiness. Not only are people more likely to be standing (and sleeping) in trash and filth, but they are more likely to get in fights. If you are lucky, some of the contestants will give up and quit the game. They will also try in vain to leave.
  • For added zest, include a very junky stove. Odds are pretty good that they will start a fire, and with no front door for the firemen to enter, you have to hope it will just burn itself out. This is a good way to expedite the reduction in contestants, although it sometimes you end up with no winner of the game (for example, the Sims sometimes get so sleepy, that they can't help but fall asleep right in the middle of the fire).
  • You will find that the neighbors come by to meet the new move-ins, and will die of starvation trying to find the door. If you care whether the others in your game survive, you may have to intervene in creative ways.
  • The winner of the game may find his/her home haunted with the ghosts of the losers in the aftermath.
Have fun, and remember - it isn't true life.

What's In A Good Computer Game?

Is it really so hard to create a really good computer game?

One of my favorite computer games of all time is Microsoft's Motocross Madness 2. Now I'm not a big fan of Microsoft - in fact, in most cases I consider them to be at the same time a fascinating phenomenon and a necessary evil - but they did a lot of things right with MCM2.

If you aren't familiar, MCM2 is a motocross racing game. Although I do truly enjoy racing games, there are a few key things that make this game special.
The track builder is the biggest thing. Microsoft made available the Armadillo track editor, which admittedly is a pretty poor piece of software. But enough people have figured out how to use this thing well enough to create some amazing tracks. For example, you can download literally hundreds of different tracks, including replicas of almost every track on the AMA Motocross circuit, as well as replicas of supercross tracks from past series. This alone makes the game. Why is it that almost no other racing games offer this feature?
Skins are another big thing. In fact, I went through the work to create a skin that looks an awful lot like my very own 1998 KX 250 with the Factory Effex graphics kit. I have another skin that looks an awful lot like my own Thor Core 5 gear. So, yes, I can play myself, on my own KX 250, flying down Mt. St. Helen at Glen Helen if I wish. This way, I only virtually break my collarbone, again.
I first bought this game in 2001 and I am still playing it. If you can find a copy, you can usually get it for pretty cheap (I'm seeing them on eBay right now for less than $10). Personally, I wouldn't sell you my copy for $100. I'm still improving, too. For example, after I thought I had the game mastered, I realized that you can actually seat-bounce off the jumps. Yes, you do really go farther if you do it right.

The price point, the replay capability, and the variety afforded by the skins and the track editor is what makes this game.

Oh, and one more thing: The ability to go anywhere in the level I want to, not just on the track. Sure, you have to go into practice mode, but at least you can ride the track backwards, or go anywhere else for that matter.

Let's compare to another racing game I have, NASCAR Thunder 2003 for GameCube. There are a lot of available tracks, but I cannot create new ones. Skinning options are limited. And, no driving backwards on the track!
When the newer version came out, I went into the local game store and asked the salesperson about it.
"It's a pretty good game," he said.
"Hmm," I replied. "Can you drive backwards on the track?"
He looked at me pretty funny. "Uh, no. Why would you want to do that?"
"Because it is fun," I said.
What is wrong with these people?
Sure, sometimes I want to race for real, and see how well I can do. And sometimes, I want to start the race, turn around, and race backwards, and see how spectacularly I can crash head-on into the oncoming traffic.

It seems like the game making folks forget this. A computer game is meant to be an alternate reality. It isn't true life. In true life, Chad Reed doesn't race my KX 250 on a track of my own design, but in MCM2 he does, whenever I want him to. In true life, I'm much too chicken to seek out hostile aliens armed only with a crowbar, but I dare do it in Half-Life. And in true life, I would never dream of driving the wrong direction on the road into oncoming traffic, for a myriad of reasons. But it is pretty fun to do in a computer game.
At least, I assume it would be, if EA hadn't been so dumb as to disallow it in NASCAR Thunder.

This is why The Sims is a popular game, and why it is fun - but only if you play it right. Most people I know who play The Sims try to play it the "correct" way. Playing the correct way goes like this:
  • Get up in the morning when you are still tired
  • Skip breakfast so you can be to work on time
  • Spend all day at work
  • Come home and eat
  • Have a brief moment of enjoyment before you have to go to bed
  • Rinse and repeat
Gee, that sounds just like real life. You know what - I do that routine every day. Why would I want to play a game that is just like my real life? Yuck!

Now, when you use the cheat codes, the game becomes fun! Ctrl+Shift+C will open a command box where you can type "klapaucius" or "rosebud" (depending on the version you have) to increase your bank balance. Instead of working every day in order to sleep in a tiny house, you can play all day long in a mansion! You can build an indoor pool! You can play basketball in the house! You can put a full-size jacuzzi in your bedroom! You can hire a maid to clean up after you! See? Alternate reality!
This is also really the only way you can find the time to quickly create meaningful relationships with multiple people. If you want to create Sim soap operas this is a necessity. For example, you can get several of the girls across the street to fall in love with you, or you can pick a fight with your neighbor, and then trap him in a room with no door for as long as it takes. Hey, he should be nicer to you in your own house.
This cheat code is also an absolute necessity if you are going to play Sim Survivor.

It's too bad that you have to contort the game in order to make it fun. Did they forget what normal people do all the time? Did they forget that a computer game is supposed to be an alternate reality, not a depressing reminder of how lame your real life is?

This is why MCM2 is a great game. Playing it the way it was intended to be played means that you can do whatever you want. Sure, ride your motorcycle down that ski jump if you want to. Make your own supercross track with whoops that are 50 feet high, just to see what happens. Or make a rhythm section that can only be done quickly in exactly one way, if you seat bounce the section in the middle. And for only $10. Highly recommended.

If you do pick it up, which you should if you don't already have it, you will want the following two links:

You can download a lot of great tracks, rider skins, and bike skins from these locations.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

AMA Superbike at MMP - Hopefully the First of Many

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the AMA Superbike event at the brand-new Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. AWESOME.

The new track at MMP is sweet. Rave reviews were given by pretty much everyone who was asked. The fast, wide track, extensive runoff areas, and amenities make it the new standard by which American road courses will be judged. Hey, don't just take my word for it. I think it was Jake Zemke who said, "It is nice to finally have a world-class road racing facility in the United States." Most comparisons I heard were not to other road courses in America, but to Formula One courses around the world, which represent the cream of the crop when it comes to racing venues.

Congratulations, Larry Miller, on creating an awesome racing venue. Hopefully you can get the support you deserve to keep the events coming.

As for the event itself, well, the AMA Superbike event was the first ever sanctioned race at the new MMP, and in one of the best races of the year, Ben Spies managed to pull out yet another victory over Mat Mladin and Ben Bostrom. It was SUH-WEET.

Of course, visiting the vendor area is part of the appeal of these events, and this one was no exception. I was surprised at how small the vendor area was, but I expect that it will be bigger next year.

Here's some pictures:

Here's a picture of me standing next to a sweet MV Agusta. Oh, yeah. Italian motorcycles.

Here's a brand-new Triumph Daytona 675. Cycle World is raving about this bike, calling it the best middleweight sportbike available today. Oh, yeah. British motorcycles.

Here's a picture of me standing behind Ben Bostrom's racing Ducati, or at least a replica of it. Oh, yeah. Italian motorcycles again.

Finally - the start of the AMA Superbike race. Yes, these people really are insane. They are taking that corner at, oh, let's say 90 mph.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Some Rich People are Still Stupid - But I'd Rather Be Smart

Just because you are smart doesn't mean you will be rich - and just because you are stupid doesn't mean you can't be rich. As evidence we need look no farther than this article which tells how Ben Roethlisberger recently crashed while riding his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa. Without a helmet.

Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is stupid.

This story hits home to me because my father, who is smart but not rich, was also recently injured in a motorcycle accident. My father has been riding motorcycles for over forty years. I have never known him to be injured in any way in a motorcycle accident prior to this one. In fact, I don't think he's ever even received a traffic citation during all of that time.

He was taking a corner on a highway at a very reasonable 25 miles per hour. Who knows exactly what happened next. Apparently, the front tire lost traction as the bike high-sided and threw my dad into the rocks that were piled next to the side of the highway.

Here's what happened:
  • Broken right ulna near the wrist, and multiple fractures to right radius near the wrist, requiring surgical repair
  • Broken left humerus and severely dislocated left elbow with ligament and tendon damage, requiring surgical repair
  • Broken left tibia and fibula beneath the knee, and torn left patellar tendon, requiring surgical repair
  • Broken left ankle in multiple locations, requiring surgical repair
  • Burst fracture to fourth thoracic vertebra, which has not required surgical repair - yet
He is in the midst of a two-month stint of laying on his back, waiting for the bones to heal, and meanwhile not ever getting up - EVER.

Here's what didn't happen: He didn't die. He didn't split his head open and die. Because he's not stupid.

For those of you that are stupid: Can you see the scratches on this helmet here? The impact cut entire sections out of the shell. Some of those scratches, like those more horizontal ones on the side, are about 1/8 of an inch deep. The impact was so hard, it burst the face shield completely off the helmet.

I love this helmet. Without this helmet, my dad would now be dead.

If you are stupid, like Ben Roethlisberger, it is time for you to wise up. You might be a great rider. Unfortunately, it isn't always about you. You might be riding properly until you get cut off by some idiot driver in an SUV. Or you might be involved in some freak accident, high-siding into the rocks unexpectedly while going carefully around a corner at only 25 miles per hour. Don't be stupid.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Supercross Season for the Ages

My son and I just got back from maybe the best sporting event I will ever attend - the 2006 Las Vegas Supercross.

Now this is no small thing. I was in the audience in Logan, Utah when Utah State University upset Brigham Young by the score of 58-56 in football. It was against the rules in that game to play defense. Oh yes, that game rocked.

I should say, it rocked, unless you have the sorry lot of being a BYU fan - but then, if you were, you wouldn't be reading this blog. This blog is for half bad boys, not sissy pansy-waists. As anyone knows, if you wish to attend BYU, you must agree to adhere to the code of conduct, part of which reads, "I vow to consider myself superior to everyone else," and another part which reads, "I disavow myself from ever being a half bad boy; rather, I vow to be a sissy pansy-waist."
If you ARE a BYU fan and happened to arrive here by accident, I apologize. I recommend you try That is probably where you meant to go anyway.

Another great sporting event right after BYU's guard tandem of Randy and Robby Reid were featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. No, they were actually featured for their supposed basketball prowess, not for being sissy pansy-waists. Although it was later said of them, "The two biggest boobs in this year's SI Swimsuit Issue are Randy and Robby Reid."

Anyway, BYU came to Logan where a complete unknown point guard named Roddie Anderson completely schooled the Reids for 40 minutes as USU routed BYU by like 20 points.

Amazingly, many of my great sporting moments revolve around USU upsetting BYU.

But I digress. As I said, I took my son to the 2006 Las Vegas Supercross, where Chad Reed and Ricky Carmichael came into the event tied for the lead in points with James Stewart only 5 points back. The buildup was awesome and so was the racing. In the Supercross class main event, it all came down to the start. Chad was the fastest of the night, but it was only by tenths. By the end of lap two, Stewart had a 3 second lead on Carmichael, who had a 3 second lead on Reed, and that is how it ended.

I was disappointed, sure, because Chad didn't pull it off. But in true Chad Reed style, he was gracious, appreciative of the opportunity, respectful of the other two champions, a good sport, and above all, he remembered to thank his wife Ellie.

And I got to experience it all with my son. Nope, I'll never forget that one for sure.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Understanding Generative Thinking Part 3 (or, How to Prove Your Point with Diagrams)

(If you have not read parts one and two, you probably should do that first.)

One of the great things about generative thinking is that it allows you to prove your point with diagrams. Notice here that I did not say, "demonstrate" your point. I said "prove" your point.

With generative thinking, if you like, you can draw a diagram that discusses your point. This is not that big of a deal. The big deal is, if anyone disagrees with your point, you can reference the diagram you just drew as proof that you are right!
Remember, part of generative thinking is that they have to accept whatever you say without questioning it. And don't forget the advantages of shouting!

Here is a real world example of how this actually happened. I am not making this up. I have several witnesses that can vouch for the validity of this experience.

The topic of discussion was, communicating issues between individual contributors and management. The question was asked, "I don't always feel comfortable communicating problems to my upper management. Sometimes I am asked to do something; I see a problem, but I am unsure how to communicate this problem to them effectively. Do you have any suggestions?"

It is very important that you do not forget this question, because it will NEVER BE ANSWERED.

Here is how the question was addressed.

"Well, let's take a look at this. What you don't want to do is try to solve problems. I'll show you." And she drew this picture. "See, here you have your problems."

"There's something about problems. What do problems lead to?"
We answered, "Solutions."
"That's right. Solutions." And she drew this next picture.

Then she went on. "See, the thing about problems is, in order to address the problems, we come up with solutions to the problems. But what happens when you come up with solutions? You simply find more problems!" And she drew this picture.

At this point, one person in the class took exception. "Uhh, well, I don't agree. Sometimes, you identify a problem, and you solve it, and it just stays solved. Then you move on."

Silly student! That is thinking about, not thinking for! The instructor of generative thinking is always right!

She returned to the board again. "No, I'm sorry, that is not correct. As you can see here on the board, problems lead to solutions, which lead back to problems. It is a vicious cycle. You don't want to get caught up in trying to solve problems!"

Let me just say that not only will you not get very far telling software engineers, whose job it is to solve problems, that solving problems is a no-win game and a bad idea, but also it didn't really fool anyone that she had just drawn a picture, and then used the picture to prove her point of view. Very interesting!

She went on. "Instead of trying to solve problems, you want to identify the 'what's so.'" She drew this picture. "You separate the fact from your opinion. That is what it means to identify the what's so."

(See, you can't trademark the word "facts." I wouldn't be surprised if "what's so" is a trademarked term.)

Next she drew this picture. "When you identify the what's so, then you come up with what's possible. This opens you up to discover creative ways of addressing the what's so." You see, no solutions to problems are ever creative!

Anyway, because you have identified the "what's so" and have now had many edifying conversations about "what's possible," I'm sure you are wondering what happens next. So were we.

"Now that you know what's so and what's possible, the great thing about this is, it invites solutions." And she drew this picture.

No, I'm not kidding.

We looked on in astonishment as we saw that we had just completed a larger circle. Most of us were truly trying to see this from her point of view and validate it. But we couldn't help but notice that all we did is add two extra steps to the infinite loop we had originally!

As best I can tell, what this picture points out is the following: "Problems lead to solutions, which only lead back to more problems. This is how you address problems on your own. If you want to involve management, you must first identify the what's so. Then you communicate it to management who tells you what's possible. What's possible might include things like, "If you don't solve that problem, it is very possible that you will get fired." Or, "If you don't have enough time to solve that problem, it is very possible that you will need to work late nights." Such possibilities obviously invite you to come up with a solution, any solution, to the problem.
And you're right back where you started.

The moral of the story is, involving management in problem solving involves twice as many steps and takes twice as long. Otherwise, you can spin faster if you just deal with it yourself!

I related this story to my friend Brandon. After he wiped the tears from his eyes and got his breath back, he posited the following:

"The thing is, a problem is not an oval, it is a triangle. Each side of the triangle represents the three sides of the problem - my side, your side, and the truth. We draw a line out of each side of the triangle to represent the three sides of the problem. There is a circle that touches each of these lines. The circle represents you. Outside of you is a larger circle. This represents upper management. To solve a problem, then, you simply draw dots in the space between you and upper management. There. Problem solved."

Here is the picture he drew:

We now call this the Hubcap Methodology of solving problems. And don't go using it all over the place, willy-nilly. We are trademarking it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Understanding Generative Thinking Part 2 (or, How To Teach Without Lesson Planning)

One of the really great things about teaching generative thinking is that it doesn't require a lesson plan. (See Part 1 of this series if you haven't already.)

It doesn't require a lesson plan, because you start out by telling the audience that they just have to accept what you say as a valid point of view, and they aren't allowed to question it or debate. This makes it so you can get paid to pontificate, philosophise, and otherwise b.s. your audience about whatever your opinion is on anything you want. They will just sit there and try to make sense of whatever drivel falls out of your mouth, knowing that they can't question or debate it.

When you are done talking, nobody will dare say anything, because what they want to say is, "What in the crap are you talking about?" But only you are allowed to say such things. Either that, or they are expecting you to continue, because they expect you to make a point. But you don't really have a point, other than to talk about whatever enters your head. So you can sit there in silence for a while. After a while, you can say, "You people are not thinking loud enough." What this really means is, "Someone make a comment, so I can philosophise about it."

Now you might be wondering, "But what happens if someone expresses an idea that I don't want to talk about, or asks a question that I don't know the answer to?" Ah, my young Padowan. Fear not! It is at this point that you pull out some of your key phrases, like, "You don't have to understand it. Understanding is the booby prize," or, "You need to remember to listen and speak for, not listen and speak about." This last one is very key, since nobody in the room knows the difference between the two, and you never explain it to them. And since it is against the rules to try to understand or question it, they have to just accept it.
Another technique at this point is to begin the insults. For example, say, "I can't believe how insistent you guys are at getting off topic." This will let the audience know that the comment was not appropriate. They may not know what the topic is, but they know that the last comment was NOT the topic.

What they haven't learned yet is that the topic is whatever YOU want to talk about. The comment was on something that you don't want to talk about. Obviously that makes it off topic.

You might believe this to be made up, but I swear this actually happened. After coming back from a break, the instructor leads off the discussion basically by asking, "What have you guys been thinking about what we've been learning?" You might assume this is intended to be a 10-minute segue into the topic at hand, but no - this WAS the topic at hand, apparently, as we discussed apparently whatever the instructor wanted to talk about for over one hour. Then someone made a comment or asked some sort of question. The response came back, "You know, I cannot believe how devoted you guys are to getting the conversation off topic. We are trying to head somewhere, but you guys are bound and determined to dive down ratholes and spin on off-topic conversations."

To which we replied: "How can we go off topic when we don't know what we are even talking about or what we are trying to achieve?"

As best we could tell, it was off-topic if it was about something the instructor didn't want to talk about.

So again, this is a powerful tool. You could get paid to train people without actually teaching them anything. For example, you could make up a bunch of stuff about how similar the world economy is to a Chia Pet, or why gravity is a farce. If anyone disagrees with you, you can reprimand them for not listening to your point of view and accepting it as valid for you. If they ask a question about it, you can remind them that understanding is not the purpose. And if you get tired of talking about it, you can just be silent, and wait for them to say something. If they bring up something you want to talk about, you can talk about it. You are even welcome to disagree, if you like; as you'll remember, you don't have to follow your own rules. Or, if it is something you don't want to talk about, you can just claim that it is off-topic.

This way you can talk about whatever you want and get paid for it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Understanding Generative Thinking, Part 1 (or, How To Get Paid To Teach Bunk)

I just finished a training course on generative thinking. Before I go any further, I must say that I feel I did learn skills, techniques, and information of value in this course. So if you ever are asked to take such a course, I'd say to do it; just be aware of what it is. To be clear - there is some value here.

I also have to say this is probably (and intended to be) the first of a series of blogs about this. It's too much information for one blog, and I have to get this written down in order to calm down about it.

Okay. Now, to talk about Generative Thinking Part 1, or How To Get Paid To Teach Bunk. Don't take this to mean that the whole thing is bunk. For example, you will find that this is a sort of a Jedi mind trick to help you win arguments.

1. Build a basis that defines itself with circular logic. For example, a basis where, in order to use what you learn, you have to first put it into practice; in order to understand it, you first have to make sense of it, etc. In this case, make a claim that you are going to teach techniques on how to communicate effectively, and then require them to master these skills before they can learn them.
2. Establish a precedent for listening. This is an important piece of foundational information which sets a stage where only you have the right to talk. Express that in the class you will be presenting an idea that they need to just try to accept as a possible reality. This will come in useful later.
3. Invent a vocabulary. Use phrases like "listen for, don't listen about" and "give granted trust, not earned trust" that don't really make any sense. Explain to the class that what this means is that you just decide to listen to and accept another point of view as valid for them. What you really mean is that you are exerting the right to say whatever you want and the class rescinds their right to question not only your information but also your reasoning.
4. Claim that understanding is the "booby prize." I recommend you specifically use these words. This way, whenever someone asks a question such as, "I don't understand what you just said," you can use this so you don't have to repeat yourself. Instead of trying again to teach it, you can simply say, "Well, understanding is the booby prize. You don't need to understand it."
5. Claim that things are the way you perceive them because you say so. By the way, you have to subtly make it clear that this rule only applies to you, not everyone. If you explicitly say so, they might call you on it, in which case you'll have to resort to rule 6. If you are subtle about it, they might not figure it out until the class is over.
6. If things don't go your way, use emotion, shouting, threats, and/or insults to get your way. Most people will respect an instructor as a position of authority without requiring any demonstration of why they should respect you. So you can use these manipulations as a way to guilt them into submission. For example, if someone asks a question that you don't want to answer, you can say something like, "I can't figure out what is wrong with you people, why you always have to understand everything." Or, if the question they ask exposes a flaw in your teaching, you can become angry, shout at them in front of the whole class, and claim (at a high volume) how disappointed you are that, after all this time, they still insist on being argumentative instead of just listening to what you have to say. You might think this is a bit hypocritical, but move on to #7.
7. You don't have to obey your own rules. You can pick and choose when you want to obey them. For example, you can tell the class that while two people are conversing, everyone else has to listen; but you can interrupt if you want to. You can explain to people that they should take emotion out of their confrontations, but then you can become angry, rude, and condescending (see #6). You can insist that people listen to you, and yet when they talk, you don't have to actually listen to their point of view; instead, you can claim that they are not listening to you.
8. Master key phrases. Some of them are, "You are putting words in my mouth." "That is your opinion, not a fact." "You aren't listening, you insist on arguing with me." Here is an example of how to use them:
Student: "I have a concern about what you have said. If I were to do that, I would get fired."
You: "That is your opinion, not a fact."
Student: "Well, no, it is a fact, because my boss told me, 'If you do that, you are fired.'"
You: "You aren't listening, you insist on arguing with me."
Student: "I feel like you aren't listening to me. You said that I should do (x), and all I did was express a concern about my job."
You: "You are putting words into my mouth."
Student: "No I'm not, I'm trying to understand what you said."
You: "Understanding is the booby prize. This is not about understanding."
Student: "Well, I don't know how I can use something if I don't understand it."
(This is the point at which you start shouting.)
You (shouting): "I have never, in all my years of teaching this course, known anyone so belligerent and insistent on arguing with me as you. You absolutely refuse to learn what I am trying to teach you. Maybe you'd be happier if I just declared this my first ever failure in trying to teach. This is something that you could obviously use, but you simply refuse to learn it."

If you follow all of these steps, more or less in order, you will arrive at nirvana, as long as you define nirvana as: A state where you are always right simply because you assert that you are right, and nobody can challenge you because they rescinded their right, and if they try to, you will beat them into submission.

Can you see how powerful this is? This is a technique wherein you don't have to answer questions that are hard, you can become offended and shout and insult people if they question you, and you don't have to actually succeed in making them learn anything. Powerful! You could create a consulting firm, teaching this stuff to corporations for large sums of money, and nobody could ever prove you wrong - at least, not without getting into a shouting match. Well, you are too late for that, because people are already doing it. But, it could be a great technique for winning arguments.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

TLC Life Lessons - Don't Be Fooled

Maybe you've seen these new TLC Life Lessons commercials on TV lately. They advertise these figurines with "life lessons" printed on the bottom. They are admittedly kind of funny, but I've come to the conclusion that they were all written by women as a subtle message to try to change men into what they think they want.

Take this one for example. The text on the bottom of this one says "When she asks for a backrub, sometimes she just wants a backrub." Of course, all of us half bad boys know this.
We also know that the caption is not complete. The complete caption should read, "When she asks for a backrub, sometimes she just wants a backrub. And sometimes she wants more than a backrub. In either case, she lets you know by saying, 'Would you give me a backrub?'"
Now, check out the guy on this figurine. Does he look like a half bad boy? Does a half bad boy wear silky boxers with hearts on them? Give me a break! This guy probably listens to Barry Manilow.

Women don't get this quandary. I even explained it to my sigoth and she didn't seem to understand the problem: If "sometimes" she only wants a backrub, how are we supposed to know which of the "sometimes" she only wants a backrub?

Well, I'll tell you - it is part of a plan to trap and frustrate you. Don't be fooled. These and other messages are intended to confuse men and women and to complicate the relationship between us, not sweeten it. Believe me - as much as women complain about men vocally, they have been created to be attracted to men, and vice versa, by our very natures. If you believe in God, then you can believe we were created that way; if you don't, then you must believe that millions of years of natural selection have led us to this point as a species.

Don't get drawn into this. Be a manly man. Be a half bad boy. Respect your sigoth and support her, but don't give into this societal attempt to turn a man into a demasculated, hypersensitive, feminine version of his former self. She might complain that you don't cry with her in that chick flick you suffer through for her sake, but trust me - she will appreciate you being a rock when her emotions are all shot to hell. She really wants a man, despite what society tries to tell her. Hang tough my friend.

By the way, the figurines are funny, and you can buy them online if you are so inclined.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Response to Congressman Cannon

I have to admit being rather impressed that Mr. Cannon would write back to me specifically (or more likely, that he would instruct one of his office staff to write back to me specifically - either way I feel somewhat heard).

Still, you can't help but love some of the comments in the e-mail. Such as, "This legislation is designed to address the generally held concern for the 'Analog Hole Problem.'" "Generally held concern?" I hadn't realized that the general public was deeply concerned about the fact that they can legally record copies of their favorite shows. More likely, I suspect that the "generally held concern" would be that this freedom would be taken away.

I also love this phrase: "usage rights negotiated through voluntary agreements." Tell me - when was the last time you negotiated a voluntary usage agreement for a CD, a DVD, or a television program? Where is the contract you signed or the license agreement you agreed to adhere to?

Another good line is: "there is nothing to prevent manufacturers from taking advantage of the Analog Hole and allowing unrestricted copying and redistribution of content." Agreed. And there hasn't been since the start. And this act is not going to stop people from making and redistributing copies of protected content, trust me. But at least now we are getting somewhere.

Here's the point - this is a law that takes freedom away from the law-abiding citizens and does nothing to really prevent the criminals from committing crime. If we assume that people are not idiots, the only other assumption we can come up with is that those promoting this bill know it won't prevent piracy - instead, it is about greed, power, money, and control, primarily that you and I have less of these and give more of these to the government and to wealthy corporations.

Anyway, here's my response to his e-mail:

Dear Congressman Cannon:

Thank you for your response to my concern. I can tell by reading your response that it is tailored to my concerns, as opposed to a general-purpose form response. I was impressed to see a response that was tailored to my concerns.

I appreciate that you would take the effort to explain this problem to me. As a professional, senior-level software engineer with over ten years of experience, you can be assured that I have a pretty firm grasp on technology, digital rights management, patents and copyrights, and other issues surrounding intellectual property.

I have argued both sides of these issues in my career and have seen many valid points on both sides. I have many concerns about intellectual property administration and policy in general in our country; much of this has to do with our country's future in a world economy and our ability to continue to compete.

I won't get into all of these issues because it will take even longer than what is already stated herein. Instead of delving into the issues of this bill at hand, I prefer to keep the details out and discuss what is happening in general terms.

What is happening in general terms is that certain corporations have identified a means by which people COULD steal from them. The capability to steal their property is not new (people have had this ability for decades), but the ability to prevent it IS relatively new. Thus, they are asking to pass a law that makes it so people cannot choose to steal from these companies.

This is my key area of concern. My problem with this is that, at a fundamental, moral, and religious level, I think it is wrong to enact law that takes away an individual's freedom to choose, even if it is to choose to commit a crime. Do I think that people who steal should be let free? No; on the contrary, I depend upon the laws of our country to uphold penalties for stealing intellectual property, or I would otherwise lose my livelihood.

But what we are talking about here is passing a law so that people won't be able to commit a crime. This is a different case, and I think it sets a dangerous legal precedent. You said that you have "always tried to outlaw piracy." Congressman Cannon, piracy is already outlawed. This bill is not about outlawing piracy; it is about removing freedoms from the law-abiding majority in order to prevent some people from committing piracy. What comes next? Disallowing people to host their own blogs because they might post child pornography? Outlawing the ownership of firearms because someone might use one to kill someone else? Revoking all driving privileges because someone might use a car to get away from a bank robbery?

In addition to these moral concerns, I do not think that such laws will work out as we believe they will. If the innovation to legally circumvent such restrictions or provide alternative solutions doesn't originate within the United States, I believe it will elsewhere, which will be worse than having to deal with the stolen IP in the first place.

It is better to let these corporations learn how to adapt to a new market and to new consumer demand. If the economy is like a natural ecosystem, then corporations in that ecosystem are like animal species. The ecosystem becomes more robust only if natural selection is allowed to run its course. Corporations that can't innovate to meet new consumer demand shouldn't be able to rely upon the government to save them from having to evolve.
Imagine if the wagonmakers of 100 years ago had successfully rallied together and lobbied Congress to enact laws making automobiles illegal. They may have stated a noble premise (say, because automobiles are more unsafe than wagons, which is probably true, or that they would make it easier to commit crime, which is probably also true), but you and I know what the real reason would have been - to preserve their line of business.
Imagine if they had been successful. Not only would we still be using horse and wagon, but there are many other ways our society would have changed as a result. Our cities would be smaller and more crowded, since people couldn't live more than a mile or two from employment. And how many hundreds of thousands of Americans are employed today because of the automobile industry, either directly (manufacturing, design, testing, etc.) or indirectly (parts, petroleum, highway construction, tire manufacture)?
We can see that this would have been a devastating step to take. More likely, this innovation would have occured in another country, and we would have cars today, but we would not have had the economic benefit like we have had.

This situation is no different fundamentally. Corporations are asking for law to be passed so that they don't have to compete or evolve. This is a short-sighted view that is detrimental to our long-term viability. It is wrong on an economic as well as at a moral level. I urge you to help our Congress understand the danger of such laws and to cease consideration of this bill. I appreciate your consideration and responsiveness to my concerns thusfar.

Warmest Regards,

Matt Ryan

Letter From Congress On the Digital Transition Content Security Act (DTCSA)

If you read my blog you'll remember this earlier post on the DTCSA. I fear that someday we will all be rolling that acronym off our tongues as slickly and contemptuously as we say DMCA today.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested to read the correspondence I have had thusfar with Congressman Chris Cannon, who is the US Congress representative from where I live.

Here's a letter I received back from him on this subject:

Dear Matt:

Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act (DTCSA). It is good to hear from you.

This legislation is designed to address the generally held concern for the "Analog Hole Problem" that occurs when the usage rights negotiated through voluntary agreements that are applied to high value digital content basically disappear when that digital content is converted into analog form. Content is "in the clear" once it has been converted to analog form. Unlike encrypted digital content, where access to the decryption keys can be subject to particular content usage obligations, there are no keys, licenses, or contractual obligations required to access and manipulate unencrypted "in the clear" analog content. Currently, there is nothing to prevent manufacturers from taking advantage of the Analog Hole and allowing unrestricted copying and redistribution of content that originated in a protected digital format.

The purpose behind the legislation is to preserve the same usage rights when video content is digitized as would have applied had the content not been stripped of its usage rights information in the format conversion process. For my part, I have always tried to outlaw piracy while trying to maintain fair usage rights for consumers. My position on the Judiciary Committee has given me the great opportunity to advocate for technological advances while working to clarify copyright law.

I am weary of government mandates on technology, believing that manufactures should do most of the negotiating. I do not believe it is the role of government to pick the winners and losers among different technologies. The preferred method is always private sector solutions to\ncontent protection issues. The market is generally well-suited to deal with the usage issues surrounding digital content, and it is doing so on many fronts.

Thank you once more for expressing your concerns. I will examine this bill, desiring to leave to the market what can be solved in the market while ensuring consumer choice and a level playing field for manufacturers. You raise legitimate questions that I will keep in mind as this bill and other Intellectual Property issues are addressed in the House of Representatives.

If I may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. For more information on issues currently in Congress, please visit my website at

Warmest regards,

Chris Cannon
Member of Congress

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Rock is Rolling On

That to-be-expected but nonetheless-saddening day arrived - Mike LaRocco has retired from professional racing.

I actually have Mike LaRocco's autograph. Don't laugh. I had to wait in line a long time to get it.

I don't want to wax poetic about Mike LaRocco. Something about LaRocco and poetry don't seem to mix, anyway. Let's just say, this guy is a true half bad boy. Supercross racer, hard worker, good father, and married to a babe - what all us half bad boys aspire to (and, at least the being married to a babe part, some of us have accomplished - like me).

Mike's had some great moments, but his last win at Indianapolis in front of his home crowd was one of the best in all of Supercross history. You'll be missed, Mike.

Chad Reed is the Man - Again

Ok, I know that RC won Daytona, pretty handily in fact. But the Half Bad Boy award has to go to Chad Reed. He took second place - with a separated shoulder?! This guy is one tough mother.

Hats off to Chad for a gutty performance at the toughest track of the year to stay right in the thick of the points battle.

Oh, and for those of you that say, "Well, Stewart would have beaten Chad if he hadn't crashed." I got news for you - Stewart crashed. Crashing is a part of the sport. The winner is whoever can get through 20 laps the quickest, not whoever can post the fastest lap time. You might as well say, "Stewart would have beaten Chad, if he could have completed the race before Chad." In other words, it is a dumb thing to say, so don't say it.

Way to go, Chad. You rock. Keep toting the banner for us half bad boys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Half Bad Boy Hero - Chad Reed Wins St. Louis

Let me be the first to congratulate Chad Reed on his awesome victory in the St. Louis Supercross. What's that you say? He's already been congratulated? Well, then I guess I won't be the first to congratulate him. I want to do it anyway.

Chad Reed is a true half bad boy hero. He participates in one of the most bad-boy sports on the planet, and does so at a top level. He expects nothing less than the best of himself, but he truly loves the competition. And who was the first person he thanked on the podium this week? His wife Ellie.

Oh yeah. That's what a half bad boy is all about.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Eating Humble Pie (but just a nibble)

After my last post, I have to give some credit to Krista Voda, who, in her podium interview with Jeremy McGrath last Saturday, said, "He definitely is the king of Supercross."

Of course, we already knew that. Until someone at least ties his record of seven Supercross titles, he will always be the king. But it was nice hear Krista say it; it means either she started learning about Supercross, or someone is telling her what to say so she doesn't say something stupid. Either way, it is an improvement.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How To Be A Supercross Announcer

I hear that Supercross is the fastest growing action sport in the US today. If you are a Supercross racer, or if you are a spectator, whether live or on TV, or if you ride or support their sponsors, congratulations: You are helping Supercross to grow.
Unfortunately, if you are Supercross TV announcer for Speed or CBS, I'm sorry: You are not helping Supercross to grow. You are helping position Supercross as a sport for stupid people.

I don't mean "stupid" as in, "You'd have to be stupid to try to blitz those whoops." I mean "stupid" as in, "I wonder if these people passed elementary school?"

I know there are some good Supercross announcers, but this is only because I am a long-time fan. Any new person watching Supercross on TV would have to assume that it is a sport for stupid people. They would arrive at this conclusion the moment they heard these people speak; they would remark to themselves, "I've never even seen a real motocross motorcycle in person, and I know more about this sport than they do." Where are you, Jamie Little??? Where are you, David Bailey???

Alas, we are stuck with Ralph "I Wish I Could Go Through Puberty" Sheheen, Denny "It Is So Hard To Construct A Sentence" Stephenson, and Krista "I Am Blonde For A Reason" Voda.

Krista is by far the worst. A typical Krista moment was at San Francisco this year, amidst the rain and mud. Broc Glover was explaining to Krista how the mud tires are self-cleaning, designed to cause the mud to remove itself from the tires. Krista turned to the camera and said, "Self-cleaning tires? I wish I had that in my oven." At which point my wife and I looked at each other, and I said, "She wants self-cleaning tires in her oven??"

I shouldn't complain too loudly. Speed and CBS, we Supercross fans do appreciate you broadcasting Supercross on TV and we continue to support you by watching. But do you think you could do something about the announcers? That's really all we're asking.

What It Means That Superbowl XL Is Over

Superbowl XL is over. What does this mean? What do we learn from this? What happens now that is is over?

We learn that:
  1. There are no good NFC teams.
  2. Controlling almost the whole game doesn't mean that you are going to win.
  3. Being inept almost the whole game doesn't mean that you are going to lose.
  4. The first strategic point in Seattle's two-minute drill is, "Everybody go into panic mode."
  5. The second strategic point in Seattle's two-minute drill is, "Whatever has worked so far, do the opposite."
  6. The third strategic point in Seattle's two-minute drill is, "Whatever you do, DO NOT STOP THE CLOCK."
  7. Good things don't always happen to good people. Sometimes, good things happen to a bunch of haughty, arrogant jerks.
What it means:
  1. Eleven more months until the best football games of the year are on TV again.
  2. Now I don't have to worry about missing my favorite NFL team on TV in order to watch Supercross.
  3. Hopefully Jerome Bettis will finally retire, and by doing so, bring the average NFL player's IQ up by a good 80 points or so.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Half Bad Boy DVD Review - Batman Begins

Summary: This masterpiece of moviemaking shows why Batman is a worthy hero, and teaches the movie industry how a movie should be made in the process.
Grade: A

About This Movie: We learn about the origins of Batman as he assumes a secret identity to try to bring peace and order back to his Gotham city home. And he also gets to kiss Katie Holmes.

The Best Part About This DVD Is... everything ties together. These days, it seems most movie makers don't even take the time to tie their own movie together. Batman Begins not only ties together logically from beginning to end, but ties in with the whole Batman story. After watching, I understood how he became who he is, how Gotham came to be the way it is, why he is always fighting so many quirky characters, where he gets all of his neat gadgets, and many other things that were previously unanswered questions. This Batman is a worthy hero. Unlike other Batman portrayals, he is an admirable, good-doing man most of the time (not a sniveling nerd or snobby jerk), but a truly terrifying, yet human, crime-fighter. He chooses to fight crime because he wants to make the world a better place, and chooses to use his money and his life to do this instead of basking in the luxury of a billionaire lifestyle. This Batman (not the others) is my favorite of all superheroes.

The Worst Part About This DVD Is..., I'll have to get back to you on that one.

The Bottom Line
This is how movies should be made - great acting, great casting, great stunts, great special effects, great character development, great cinematography, great plot and theme - no stone was left unturned. Everything made sense in this movie. Even Bruce and Rachel's scene at the end was very satisfying - it was neither cheesy and unbelievable, nor was it disappointing. Not only is this hands-down the best superhero movie of all time, it may be one of my favorites of all time, period. Buy this DVD. You will be glad you did.