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September 30, 2002

The Important Stuff

In lieu of a real entry, my latest Mileage Plus account update:

Membership level 100K Premier
Year-to-date Premier ® qualifying miles 82900
Current program balance 197642

PGP Signed Entry

September 22, 2002


I don't have a lot of time for an entry today, but I wanted to clarify a couple of things from the last diatribe.

I used the word "vote" in the last entry as a very general term. You vote every day on the future of mankind with your actions. This incluces, but is not limited to, how you spend your money, what demands/requests you make of products and companies and people, and of course, participating in elections.

To clarify on PGP, one cannot pretend to be me having only my public key. PGP is an asymmetric cryptography system. The issuer of a signed message signs the message with a private key which only they hold. A public key is used to verify that the message is authentic. Simiarly, someone can encrypt a message to me using my public key, and only my private key will be able to decrypt it. Therefore, someone holding my public key is able to: 1) verify that a message was signed by my private key (which only I hold) and thus have a very good degree of confidence that the message was written by me, and 2) encrypt a message that they want only me to read, because a message encrypted to my public key is only decrypt-able by my private key. There is plenty of information on the net about PGP and other asymmetric crypto-systems. For more info, try The International PGP Page and this page on PGP's history. I might add that I link to the International PGP Page from my contact page, which was referenced in the original post announcing this change. So, someone can copy and paste the text off of this page, and then edit it, or someone can write some other message entirely, but they cannot sign it with my private key. The signature is not a copy and paste deal; it is generated from the content of the message plus my private key. So changing the message will invalidate the signature. Bottom line: There Can Be Only One.

Finally, I want to say that I am a Boeing fan. I go out of my way to fly Boeing aircraft, and I was very excited about the 777 and the 747 will always be Queen of the Sky, even after the A380 boat comes out. But the point of my last entry was, even being such a fan of Boeing, I can't help but feel that the world is getting complacent. Like I said, we should have all been flying Mach 2.2 by 1980 if you saw the rate things were going in the 60's, but we allowed ourselves to be overwhelmed by an establishment whose purpose is to do as little as possible to make as much money as possible. Despite this, I actually do hope the Sonic Cruiser gets the go-ahead, but even the prospects of that don't look that good right now. Let's hope anyway.

PGP Signed Entry

September 20, 2002

On Airplanes and Innovation

If you were alive in the 1950's and 1960's, you may remember the introduction of the deHavilland Comet, the first commercial jet-powered airliner, or the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, the first US-made commercial jetliners and, arguably, the two aircraft that truly ushered in the jet age. Those must have been heady times indeed. Think that in 50 years the trans-Atlantic crossing had been reduced from 4 days to about seven hours. The talk of the industry would have you believing that you would be flying a supersonic commercial jet on a regular basis within 20 years. Humankind was on their way to the Moon, and with any bit of imagination commercial space travel and maybe even a moon colony would be reality by 2001...

So as I sit here on a cold, rainy evening, I find myself wondering why today's airliners are in fact slower than the airliners of the 1960's, why after we got to the Moon we, for all intents and purposes, abandoned it, and why our only manned outpost in space is called the "International Space Station" but as yet only Americans and Russians have ever called it home?

The answeres to those questions, of course, lay in a myriad of interconnecting reasons and reasons for reasons. The simple answer is, "everything." The reason things are the way they are is because of everything that has happened up until now. I can't pretend to be able to touch on them all, but I want to talk about my feelings on some of them.

The major reason why I believe our advancement in aerospace seems to have stalled is because the human desire to explore and improve has been tempered by a force greater than any person or small groups of persons can overcome. The establishment -- scientific, political, and otherwise -- has become so entrenched in our modern world that it is nearly impossible to develop any ideas outside of it. Not since the days of Galileo and the Church have we stood at a more stifling environment for innovation.

A hundred years ago a couple of bicycle mechanics would pour their savings and life's work into the development of an idea that they believed in. Regardless of whether you think the Wright Brothers were truly great inventors or just a couple of blokes who happened to be at the right place at the right time, the point is that two regular people were able to develop their idea independently.

Developing an idea into an innovation today requires an incredible amount of money. You might argue that this would have been true at any point in history, and you would be correct. However, the relative cost of developing ideas to the average income of individuals has never been greater than it is today. How this came to pass is another topic altogether, and I may write on that some other time. In any case, unless you are extremely wealthy, developing an idea today requires you to find outside money. Investors.

The problem with this approach is that ideas are evaluated not on their scientific merit, but now they are evaluated on their investment value. How much money can I expect to make from this, and how quickly?

Almost as a matter of course, meritorious ideas which have a long incubation time are tossed out. Same with ideas that may further the state of science, but do not provide a clear channel to a marketable application, and thus a return on the investment.

By requiring idea holders to have money in order to pursue their idea, this creates a cycle in which the tools to innovate are granted to only those within the establishment. By accepting money in order to gain access to those tools, the idea holders all too often compromise the original idea in order to adapt it to suit the market. It is truly a Catch-22 situation. Without money, the idea cannot be developed. With money, the idea becomes batardized into a form which is suited to the establishment. In both cases, innovation suffers.

Gone are the days when one person or a small group of people are able to make a significant impact on innovation. Today's environment requires the backing of huge corporations, universities, and government laboratories. Is it possible that the ability for a human being to advance the state of science by themselves is over? Is it that we have reached some apex of evolution wherein the human brain is capable only of developing new ideas if it is given a million dollars of financial backing? I highly doubt it.

The situation is artificial. It is a construct of corporate, political, and yes, even religious, making. For that reason, it can be overcome. Not by one. Not by a group. It will take the power of the entire market to effect change. The market that feeds the establishment, of which you and I are members, is the key to change. We, as a collective market, have allowed this situation to come to pass by accepting mediocrity and the status quo. After all, who cares about the future, right? Just give me an RF remote control for my 55" big screen TV and I'm happy, right?

That brings me to the root of another situation. We as a society have become engrossed in the desire to only make our own lives easier and our pursuits have been focused solely on the acquisition of some material happiness whether that be in the form of a remote control or getting blasted with our friends on Friday night or getting your kids through school. We have lost sight of the state of humankind in our quest for personal satisfaction, and in doing so, we have allowed the establishment to dictate our acceptance of the status quo.

Wake up to the world, my friends, and ask for something better. It is only through the work of individuals that we can effect change in the market and in the world. I will write more on these subjects in the future when I have time, but for now let me return to the reason I started this.

The Boeing Company is slated to make a go/no-go decision on the Sonic Cruiser concept in the next year or so. Similarly, the Airbus consortium has already announced the A380 superjumbo aircraft. Both of these efforts, in my opinion, are incredible disappointments from an innovation standpoint. The Sonic Cruiser promises to fly you at Mach 0.98 a distance of 9,000 nautical miles no earlier than 2008. The A380 will take 550 passengers a distance of 8,000 nautical miles by 2006.

Compared to what they were saying 40 years ago what we would have 20 years ago, this is a let-down of the greatest magnitude. Yes, we had an oil crisis. Yes, people wanted more comfort over speed. Yes, people are more worried about the in-flight meal than the engines. We've allowed the industry to get us excited about things which really should be complete disappointments through our complacency.

At this rate we will never colonize other worlds. We won't even finish exploring our own. Break the walls that are stifling innovation with your vote... your dollar. And your self. Ask yourself how you are contributing to innovation. I know I'm not proud of where I stand, but I aim to renew my efforts. Think things over a bit. We'll talk again soon.

PGP Signed Entry

September 19, 2002

Living Legend

Yesterday night, I saw Chuck Berry live at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis. I had a lot of work to do this week, and I was already pretty tired, so making the 2.75 hour each way journey was a little bit daunting. At 4 PM, I got home from class and asked the Peach 3 times whether or not I should go. It said "No" three times. I was pretty annoyed already, at my trip-mates and myself (mostly myself) for getting me into the situation where I had to drive. Looking back, I was foolish and rather less than assertive, which is not something that I've had problems with in a long, long time. I really only have problems being assertive with my friends, actually. Because I'm too darn nice. So when the question of who was driving came up of course everyone just kind of acted like wet noodles and finally, seeing that no one was going to take the ball and run, I just said, "well, I'll drive, but then someone is going to be pretty uncomfortable in the back." I drive a Ford Mustang GT, so there is no back seat, but rather a shelf that they call a "seat" so my insurance rates aren't worse than they already are. This was my way of saying, "I don't want to drive because I'll already be tired and I'll still have a lot of work this week after we get back; why don't one of you drive?" But of course if I'd wanted to say that, I should have just said it instead of what I said. So that was the lesson of the day.

Regardless, my mood did improve slightly during the drive as Mike and I got into a discussion about track and field. It helped take my mind off of my annoyance, at the very least, and helped me start getting over my internal sulking so I could enjoy myself. By the time we got to Gene's I was actually feeling alright and ready to get some grub and catch some good music. Thankfully, Gene drove the rest of the way to Blueberry Hill.

Now, first of all, let me just say that Blueberry Hill has the best burgers I've tasted in a long while. Yes, indeed. Juicy, plump, and yummy. And topped with a ball of your choice of cheese. Yes, a ball of the stuff, which, if you want, you can then smear over the burger. Mmmmmmm. The "Buffalo Fries" left something to be desired though, as anything "Buffalo" should be slathered in radioactive fires-of-the-ninth-hell sauce whereas these fries were just sprinkled with some spices which presumably might be considered "hot" by some very sheltered Amish people, maybe.

On to the show. We headed downstairs at 9, to catch an a capella group singing their versions of some classic rock hits. It was alright... I thought it was a good enough way to pass the hour before the real reason we were there came on stage... The venue, by the way, was a pretty cozy area, with about 100 seats and then standing room for maybe 200-250 more. We got there just in time to snag the best standing room area, but not seats. No big deal in the end, because I would rather have been standing and moving to the music than sitting.

The first impression I had when I saw Chuck Berry on stage was that he is completely full of energy, and this impression returned to me throughout the night. Here's a guy who is a month short of his 76th birthday, and his stage presence is as big as any rock star of any era. I imagine Mike will post something about the set and maybe the guitar, being that he took notes on the set and knows more about things like guitars than myself. He never took a break during the entire show... it was one song right after the other with some great humor thrown in there for spice. And that's the thing... he was funny, he knew how to entertain, and boy did he know his guitar. I mean, truly, this guy was one with the music. I pretty much forgot that he was 75 years old about ten minutes into the concert, until he'd bring it up in a joke.

The show was probably one of the best, if not the best, music concert I've attended. It was all substance and all style, nothing more. It was about the music, and about sharing the music and just plain entertaining people. None of this hype, none of this glitz and gimmicks and electronic light shows and nonsense that you see so much of today. He didn't have to have that because he could connect with the audience and entertain them just with his words and music. All this for a cover of $25.

I left the concert not only happy, but with a bit of restored faith. But then, that's why Chuck Berry is a living legend.

PGP Signed Entry

September 18, 2002

Shiny & New

At what point do you stop calling something "new?"

PGP Signed Entry

September 14, 2002

Customer Service Calls

The complaint of the day with regards to customer service is that after being on hold for three eternities, then explaining my problem, then discovering that the agent is clueless, then waiting for a manager, then discovering the manager needs to put me on hold for another eternity for no apparent reason, and then finally maybe actually resolving the issue that is not my damn fault in the first place, then.......


They have the audacity to waste EVEN MORE of my time by asking me if I want to sign up for the "free" trial of the $79.95 web service or credit protection bullshit which if I don't cancel will be automatically charged to my account "for my convenience." NO, I don't fucking want it, you imbicile!!!!!

PGP Signed Entry

September 12, 2002


I updated my voter registration yesterday, and I would like to remind anybody who hasn't registered to vote to do so. If you live in a democracy or republic, it is your right, and duty, to vote.

PGP Signed Entry

September 11, 2002

PGP Signed Entry

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September 9, 2002

Ahh the Life...

"I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I hoped it could be. "
-- Peter Gibbons, Office Space

That's right. A general recovery day, today was. I did watch the Bears game, though. 27-23 victory. You'd better believe it!

PGP Signed Entry

September 8, 2002


It has come to my attention that someone has been impersonating me, and plagiarizing the blogs of my friends and acquaintances.

For this reason, I will, starting immediately, make PGP signed versions of my blog entries available as a link following each entry. Also, I will make PGP signed versions of any comments I make on others' blogs available in the place where one normally puts their link (for an example see my own comment to this post). My PGP public key can be found on my contact page, if you wish to verify that a signed message was in fact sent by me.

That is all.

PGP Signed Entry

September 7, 2002

On Flying

"When people can fly, anything can happen."                             -- Ang Lee

September 1, 2002

On Friendship

"One enjoys friendship most when times are good, when the sun shines and the world is kind. But it is the sharing of adversity that knits men together."
-- John Christopher, The City of Gold and Lead
This is an excellent quote from The Tripods Trilogy. Because of Mike, I started re-reading the first of these gems of my childhood, The White Mountains. This morning, at about 2, after more DDR and painful blisters. I'm on the final book now, The Pool of Fire. Having been a while since I've read a book, it was nice to see that my reading speed improved through the night and today. Yes. Friendship.