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War on Christmas Tue, Dec 28, 2010
I think the "War on Christmas," i.e. the practice of boycotting stores and criticizing people for saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," is one of those issues that shouldn't really be an issue.  I guess it all stems from the idea that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and as a Christian nation, America should force its people to honor that tradition.  Here are a few counterarguments to that idea: 
  1. America isn't a Christian nation.  While the dominant religion is Christianity, the government isn't allowed to force its people to do anything regarding religion.
  2. Christmas, in its current form, is barely a Christian holiday, if not outright un-Christian.  Not that I have anything against rampant consumerism or Black Friday stampedes, but those probably aren't the types of activities Jesus would have condoned.
  3. Not everyone celebrates Christmas.  Even though schools are off and people take vacation from work, not everyone is a tree-decorating, carol-singing Christmas-celebrator.  To expect people to say "Merry Christmas" is like a Hindu expecting everyone to say "Happy Diwali."  Different strokes for different folks.
In the end, I sense a little bit of a collective control freak trying to force other people to act a certain way.  It takes one to know one.  I still think the only thing you can control is yourself.  Choose your battles. #lifestyle

Christmas break from work Thu, Dec 23, 2010
Here's something they don't tell you when you're a kid:  Ya know how awesome Christmas break is?  A week (or more) off from school, playing with your new toys and eating cookies all day?  Yeah well that stops once you start working.  And it's not just that you no longer play with toys and can't afford to eat cookies because they'll put you over your calorie limit.  It's that, unless you have a really good reason to take an entire week off form work between Christmas and New Year's (e.g. progeny, illness, etc.), you'll probably spend at least a few days back at work during that time, making both holidays essentially just glorified three-day weekends.  And not that there's anything wrong with a long weekend.  It's just that it's a letdown.  You're thinking, "Wee!  Christmas is in a few days!"  And then a few days later you're thinking, "Un-wee!  Back to work!" #business

Grill facemask Thu, Dec 23, 2010
I like these new facemasks that NFL defensive linemen wear sometimes: 


They probably serve a legitimate purpose, like preventing eye pokes and such.  But to me, they make players look like robots, which is what I imagine the NFL will consist of in 50 years. #sports

Simple foods Wed, Dec 22, 2010
I've recently become a fan of simple foods, i.e. processed foods with few or simple ingredients.  Skippy Natural Peanut Butter has the following list of ingredients:  Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Palm Oil, Salt.  Land O' Lakes Butter with Olive Oil is made of the following:  Sweet Cream, Olive Oil, Salt.  Those are all things I can understand without researching them on the internet.  There's no potassium chloride or xanthan gum, or any of the other millions of food additives with complicated names that may or may not cause limb loss and brain seepage.  I try to stay away from the "chemicals are scary" mindset; I realize most things have a complicated chemical name (dihydrogen monoxide, i.e. water) and many chemicals are benign or even beneficial.  And of course just because something is made from non-processed ingredients doesn't make it healthy.  But I guess I get a little peace of mind knowing my food was grown in the dirt, cleaned up, and essentially sold to me as is. #food

Military pride Tue, Dec 21, 2010
I think one of the most favorable advancements in the history of America is the idea of military pride, i.e. respecting people who serve in the military and paying them a decent salary.  From a logical viewpoint, fighting in wars for often questionable causes shouldn't elicit a favorable response.  Most people aren't willing to die for something they don't at least believe in, if not wholeheartedly support.  But because our nation has a rich history of military success and valor, serving in the military is seen as honorable, even wise.  I'm not smart enough to know of specific examples, but I'm under the impression that certain countries at certain periods throughout history have treated their soldiers poorly and viewed them as expendable cogs in the kingdom-building machine.  This is a good way to decrease the size of one's military.  A good way to increase the size of one's military is to value them, respect them, and glorify them. #sociology

Molten salt energy Mon, Dec 20, 2010
California is planning to build a molten salt power plant in the desert, which is kind of cool.  If you're a nerd, you might like reading these words: 
In the case of a molten salt solar plant, heliostats--giant rotating mirrors controlled by computers to best track and reflect sun onto a specific point--reflect sun rays onto a central tower, or a series of pipes, containing a molten salt mixture. The molten salt generally consists of sodium nitrates and potassium. The solar rays heat the liquefied salt to a temperature of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The steam from the molten salt is then harnessed to power a generator that makes electricity. Afterward, the cooled molten salt is then piped back to the tower to be heated once again.
If you're not a nerd, you might enjoy reading these words instead: 
With reliability, unused desert, no pollution, and no fuel costs, the obstacles for large deployment for [concentrated solar power] are cost, aesthetics, land use and similar factors for the necessary connecting high tension lines.
I've been to the desert, and personally I'd be ok with having a big ugly solar plant in the middle of nowhere, as opposed to, say, coal-burning power plants strewn about the "Garden State."  Two interesting factoids:  (1) This is essentially the same system as nuclear power but instead of capturing the heat from a radiation-emitting nuclear fuel rod, it's capturing the heat from a sun-warmed block of salt.  (2) The "salt" is actually a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate, which are used in gun powder and rocket propellants. #technology

Wireless charging Mon, Dec 20, 2010
I've seen a few commercials recently for Powermat, which is a wireless charging system for small electronics (technically called inductive charging), and I'm excited to see this technology finally gaining some ground.  The science is complicated, but the reality is pretty simple:  Instead of plugging something into your cell phone to recharge it, you just place it in a holder or on a mat.  It takes the mess and complication of cables out of the equation.  My Palm Pre came with a wireless charging base called a Touchstone, and it's so dead-simple and convenient that it makes you wonder why they didn't think of it sooner.  When you don't have to fumble around with wires that aren't long enough and tiny micro-USB connectors that never fit on the first try, you tend to forget about abysmal battery life. #technology

On security Mon, Dec 20, 2010
From a recent On the Media episode regarding the role of security in our everyday lives: 
The mission is first. You don't let yourself be tied in knots. Security at best is a means to an end. It should be serving the national interest. When we become servants of security rather than being served by security, then we've got things backwards.
#technology

Cracked helmet Thu, Dec 16, 2010
When I was in the market for a snowboarding helmet, I remember reading a funny/stupid product complaint.  It was from a mother saying that the helmet she bought her son got cracked after one day of use.  Another commenter replied to her saying that if a helmet cracked, that means it served its purpose, i.e. at least your son's head didn't get cracked instead.  To view a cracked helmet as a failed product is to misunderstand the purpose of a helmet.  In conclusion, people are stupid. #business

Office gift exchange Thu, Dec 16, 2010
One December a few years ago at our office Christmas party, I was forced to participate in a gift exchange where the value of the gift was capped at $15.  People bought things like wine, chocolate, and novelty desk toys.  The gift I received, which happened to be from my boss (who has since retired), was a mirror.  An ugly, metallic, craptastic mirror.  The price was conveniently listed on the packaging so that I would know the giver spent exactly $15.  From the quality of the gift and the very specific price tag, it was easy to deduce that my boss simply went to a local store, walked down the nearest aisle, and picked out the first item that met the cost requirement.  This is why I no longer participate in office gift exchanges. #business

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