Old Musings: Ending March 2004
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You guys ever heard of private property?
29 March 2004

In a Communist society, man exploits man. In Capitalist societies, it's the other way around.

Last night, I was told that it is illegal in the city of Ann Arbor to park your car on the lawn of a house that you own, and I am having trouble reconciling this law with the values and principles upon which I thought the United States of America was supposed to have been founded.

It seems like a fairly common-sense matter to me that under a private property system like we have in the United States, that ownership of a certain piece of property implies that you have control over the use of that piece of property. For instance, I am renting a room in a house at the moment, which makes me the 'legal posessor' of said room. Because of this, I am in legal control of who is allowed to enter the room, what objects they may bring into the room, what they are allowed to do in the room, and so on. Additionally, because of my legal posessorship of this room, I am also in charge of what I do with the room. I can fill the room with computers and play with them 24 hours a day if I want to. I can stock the room up with art supplies and draw pictures in it all day. If I wanted to, I could buy a few cartons of cigarettes and sit around the room smoking them one after another. If I could find a way to do it, and if the room's floor were sturdy enough to support it, I could bring my car up to the room piece by piece, reassemble it, and store it here. Yet if I owned a house in Ann Arbor, I would be legally prohibited from storing my car on its lawn.

To me, this situation does not make any sense. The common justification for the existance of this kind of law is that it helps preserve the property values for owners of property in the city's neighborhoods. This may be true, but what if I own a house and want to sell it, but the potential buyers consider cigarette smoking to be horribly offensive and unacceptable. I cannot prohibit, and should not be allowed to prohibit, the other residents of my neighborhood from smoking cigarettes on their lawns simply on the basis that it might reduce the amount of money for which I can sell my house.

If I want to prevent my neighbors from smoking cigarettes on their own private property, I should be, and would be, allowed to offer to buy from my neighbors, the property upon which I do not wish cigarettes to be smoked. If the neighbors sold me the property, then I could rightfully prohibit them from smoking cigarettes on it. If they chose not to sell me the property, then whether they smoke cigarettes on it is, legally, none of my business, and I would and should have no control over it.

Furthermore, as much as my neighbors might argue that my parking of cars on my lawn might reduce the sale value of their property, I could argue that my inability to park my cars on my own property decreases its actual value to me (in addition to its sale value)! In a way, this decrease in the value of my property could be considered even more damaging than the theoretical decrease in their property value. After all, I want to drive my car home every day, and if I cannot park it on my property, then I have to either not use my car for this purpose, or pay money (and spend the time that it takes to walk from the rental place to my house) to rent an "acceptable" place near my house in which I can park my car.

Bleh. I guess there are no property rights specified in the Constitution. But all the same, in this country in which we seem to pride ourselves on our capitalistic, private property right-oriented views and policies; where we put people in jail for growing the wrong plants but let CEOs who have stolen the pension funds of hundreds of thousands of employees get off scot-free, that I should have the right to park my car on my own private property. But, I do not. And the fact of the matter is that I am most likely not going to put forth much (or any) effort in the near future to get this law changed. And I guess this is why democracy, like cooperative housing, does not work (at least, not that well).

On another note though; I wonder if there are laws in Ann Arbor concerning the construction of driveways on private property. If you own a house and convert your entire lawn to a big slab of concrete, may you park your car on your property then? If so, wouldn't that defeat the purpose? But perhaps it is assumed that no sane homeowner would pave their entire lawn...


A Hypothetical Situation Concerning The Environment
02 March 2004

Say, for the sake of argument, that you have just finished using the toilet, but not yet flushed. You then realize that you need to blow your nose. Since there are no Kleenex or other brands of facial tissues in your house, you grab some toilet paper from the roll and use that to blow your nose.

Now, I'm quite sure that used toilet paper (even if it was only used for the blowing of someone's nose) cannot be recycled. So, my question is this: Would it be better for the environment for you to throw the used facial tissue substitute paper away in the garbage, or to flush it down the toilet along with the rest of the waste, which was going to need to be flushed anyway (so there's no water wastage from an extra flush to take into account).

Enquiring minds want to know.


28 February 2004

Read this.


Mine Safety
28 February 2004

While touring an old copper mine with my brother and his family last week, I ran across these old safety posters. I guess they just don't make safety signs like these anymore...



Top Ten Worst CD Album Covers by Rappers
28 February 2004

While looking at my site statistics, I recently noticed that the following page


contained a link to one of the images on my website, which had been accessed several hundred times. I didn't really know what image on my website would be worth stealing, so I decided to check out the page and find out. It turned out that the page is a place for people to post what they consider the worst rap album covers of all times... I guess someone must have thought that mine was an actual album, lol! (If you click on the link and scroll down about 2/3 of the way, you will see what I mean.)

On another note, after looking at the "DJ DMT" album cover on that page, I wanted to say that I got a kick out of the fact that DMT is the name of both an illegal drug, and a modulation scheme for DSL telephone lines! (DMT in that sense stands for discrete multi-tone. The competing modulation scheme is called CAP, which stands for carrierless amplitude/phase.) But I guess that not too many people would think it was so funny.


If the train goes off the track...
28 February 2004

When I was in elementary school (Northglade; grades 1-3), we frequently were required to sing this song, the complete lyrics of which were:

Engine, engine number nine,
Going down Chicago line.
If the train goes off the track,
Will I get my money back?

For whatever reason, I always thought that this was a really stupid song and I didn't like singing it. However, on my attempted round-trip train trip from Ann Arbor MI to Tucson AZ and back, I found out that the answer is indeed, "yes". If the train goes off the track, or, in my case, if a freight train goes off the track thereby preventing your train from using the track, you can indeed get your money back.


This Is The Police Speaking...
28 February 2004

I saw this poster in the office of my nephew's K-6 school and just couldn't help taking a picture of it. The school actually seems very nice and very much non-evil; I think that whoever made this poster just made a slightly odd choice of words.


How Not to Fill a Boiler with Water in a Power Plant
15 February 2004

In the process of trying to repair our boiler system here at the Lester co-operative house, I stumbled across this article which I found rather humorus. What a great title, too :).


An Ode To (Something, I Dunno)
11 February 2004

An Ode to Something:

Spuds are Beautiful,
And Have Lovely Eyes.

But Try to Eat Yours,
Baked, not Fried.



PCI to PCMCIA Adapter
11 February 2004

Hoo-ray! My PCI to PCMCIA adapter card arrived today. Now I can use my Cisco 802.11b PCMCIA card in my desktop computer (we have no wired network here, only wireless) and stop having to deal with the evils of consumer-grade wireless equipment. Why does "consumer grade" 802.11b equipment have to be so innately evil?


The Border Patrol, Is <censored>.
04 February 2004

Warning: The full text of this article contains profane language.

To many people, the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies are not widely known for their polite and courteous attitudes. However, most people also realize that law enforcement officers do have legitimate and sometimes very important jobs to do, and some even believe that rude or discourteous behavior on the part of law enforcement officers is a necessary element that allows them to successfully do their jobs.

However, in an encounter that I had with the United States Border Patrol and Customs Service on the way home from Canada the day before yesterday, I learned first hand that acting rudely does not always help law enforcement officers achieve their goals, and can even hinder their efforts toward that end.

In my case, I had approximately 40 pounds of lead-acid electrochemical cells in my trunk, which were connected by thick wires to some fairly heavy electronic switching gear, and to a couple of circuit boards with numerous lights and switches on them. (This equipment took the form of two computer UPS (uninterruptable power supply) systems, which I had forgotten were in my trunk.) It is completely legal to transport UPSes between the United States and Canada, but I imagine that they do look rather suspicious on a vehicle x-ray, so I was pulled over for inspection.

If the border patrol agents doing the inspection had been communicative and courteous, I would have no doubt been able to tell them what the UPSes were, what they contained, why I had them, and what they are used for. However, the rude and stand-offish attitude adopted by the officer doing the interrogation prevented me from realizing that he was asking about the UPSes, which in turn prevented me from supplying accurate information to the officer which would have allowed him to do his job.

In the end, the Border Patrol officers were extremely rude and discourteous during the incident, and in the end, they let me into the United States without ever finding out what the 40 pounds of lead-acid cells in my trunk were or why I had them! Read the full text of the article to learn the details (some hilarious, some serious) of how this happened.


Ryan's Relationship Resume
19 December 2003

So a couple of years ago when I was a freshman, I stumbled on the home page of Ryan Hughes, a.k.a. Galaxor Nebulon. He attended the University of Michigan at the time, and they had tried to get him into trouble via some ridiculous internal hearing process for some activism that he had been involved with. From what I read, it sounded like he really made a fool out of them over it. If I remember correctly, I think that it somehow involved an attorney, a clown suit, and a video camera.

Anyway, I was signing my contract to live in the Lester House co-op the other day when the guy at the office mentioned that Ryan is already a resident of Lester. I've never met the guy, but he sounds cool, so that should be kind of fun. Ryan has a crazy thing that he calls his relationship resume on his website. You should look at it, because it's funny.


Kann man in verlassene Fabriken gehen? Kann man es verstehen?
17 December 2003

Earlier in the semester, I began attempting to translate some of my Crown Vantage web pages into German. I know that the grammar in the translations is probably very bad, but I have no idea whether the translations would mostly make sense to readers or whether they would be completely incomprehensible. I was reading a German infiltration site earlier this morning, and the idea came into my head that I should e-mail the author of the site (who seems to be a native German speaker) and ask if he could take a look at one of the pages and give me some sense of whether it would be worth translating more pages at this point in time, or if I should give up for now and come back after learning more German. I'll be interested to see what he says. In case anyone is interested, here is the message that I sent him:

Hallo. Ich komme aus den USA, aber ich versuche, Deutsch zu erlernen. Ich interesierre mich auch an "Infiltration" (verlassene Fabriken, usw). Ich habe ein Website (http://www.alliedpaper.org), die dreht sich um eine verlassene Fabrik in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA. Natürlich habe ich es auf English geschrieben, weil es mein erste Sprach ist. Aber zu meinem Spaß habe ich es in Deutschen zu übersetzen versucht. Bis jetzt habe ich nur ein paar Seiten übersetzt. Ich bin sicher, dass die Übersetzung nicht sehr "korrekt" ist, aber ich frage mich ob man es verstehen kann. Da Sie aus Deutschland kommen und da Sie an (verlassene Fabriken / Industriekultur) interessiert sind, frage ich mich ob Sie die Website an http://www.alliedpaper.org/cvantage/powerhouse/de-index.html lesen würden, und mir erklären, wie verständlich (oder unverständlich) es ist.

Wenn man es verstehen kann, werde ich die andere Seiten zu übersetzen anfangen. Aber wenn es unverständlich ist, ergibt es keinen Sinn, dass ich mehr unverständliche Übersetzungen auf dem Web zu schreiben. Wenn die die Situation ist, werde ich mehr Deutsch lernen und die Seiten später übersetzen.


Of course shortly after sending the message (which I spent a considerable amount of time composing), I noticed several glaring errors and better ways in which I could have phrased parts of it, but such is life...


Engineering E-Mail War
16 December 2003

Bubble Sort... In Java!
15 December 2003

I've been wanting to learn Java for a while now, and it's been pretty quiet at work today, so with the help of Swingler and the Sun Java Tutorials, I have spent the past hour or more writing this oh-so-exciting Java application that implements a bubble sort... In ascending and descending order! If you're that interested, you can peruse the source code, too.


Clariant... They're still, "exactly your chemistry."
09 December 2003

The second-oldest entry on my site talks about some humorous advertisements that I found in the journal Chemical and Engineering News. One of these advertisements is for a company called Clariant, and it consists of a flask wearing a wedding dress standing next to a beaker wearing a tuxedo, with the caption "Exactly your chemistry" below. Well, I was looking through my site statistics today, and I noticed that someone had found their way to my page using the search term, "clariant exactly your chemistry song". Now, I'm not aware of any Clariant theme song, but given their print advertisements, I certainly have to wonder what the song is about.


Hi. My name is Dr. Deke, and I'm running for President...
19 November 2003

The elections for the University of Michigan Student Government started today. This means that most people on campus have by now received at least three or four unsolicited e-mails from various candidates saying, "VOTE FOR MEEEEEE!!!" Well, in the past, I've simply ignored these spam e-mails, but today I felt like taking a somewhat more proactive stance toward them, and I wrote exceedingly sarcastic responses to each and every unsolicited campaign e-mail I received. If I do say so myself, I find some of these responses to be extremely humorous, so I have decided to post them in this article. I wonder if I will hear back from any of the candidates...


Kids Love the Rich Taste of Research Reactors
12 November 2003

So earlier today when my bosses and I left the Media Union via the loading dock door in order to go to the Grid meeting, we noticed that there were two University police cars, three state police SUVs, two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality vehicles, and a semi-truck containing a large metal cylinder with a radiation placard all parked by the Ford Nuclear Reactor Building, and that the entire area was cordened off with "Police Line - Do Not Cross" tape...


You've got to tolerate all those people that you hate...
24 October 2003

While listening to WIDR (the student radio station at Western Michigan University) while cleaning out my car last summer, I heard this rather odd song, the chorus of which goes, "You've got to tolllllllllllerate... All those people that you hate!" Something reminded me of this song earlier today so I looked it up and found out that it is called "Juxtaposed With U", by some band called "Super Furry Animals". I'm not going to try to say anything really deep about the song, but if you'd like to hear the chorus, you can do so by clicking here.


Take Care With the Bear
19 October 2003

The story of a small language barrier involving the words beer and bear.


Search Engine Sabotage?
04 October 2003

So earlier today I was asked to help a friend of a friend whose computer "can't get to any search engines anymore." In the process of trying to fix her computer, I discovered a little piece of computer crookedness, of a type that I have never actually seen used before.


Consumer Routers
31 August 2003

An article in which I rant a little bit about the unsuitable aspects of "consumer" routers, and those of routers consisting of PCs running Linux and similar such operating systems.


In the Navy...
08 August 2003

I don't dream very often, but when I do, the results are often quite bizarre, as in this dream that I had last night concerning the Navy.


La bebida del Perú
Posted 13 June 2003

It's la bebida del Perú alright, and for good reason. And soon it's going to be "la bebida de la casa de Rusty," at least as soon as I can find someplace around here from which to buy it!


He May Be a Communist / A Big Bunch of Atom Bombs
Posted 07 May 2003

Two video clips from propaganda films from the 1950s, the first detailing how to spot a Communist and the dangers of Communists stealing your daughter, and the second suggesting that the Soviet Union be attacked with "A big bunch of atom bombs." Classic stuff. Too bad so many people still seem to be obsessed with it though.


KAMSC Closing Down?
Posted 22 April 2003

The Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center, a supplementary school for "gifted" high school students in my hometown is facing severe budgetary problems and may even be forced to shut down sometime within the next few years. But would this really be a bad thing?


An Open Letter to Gary Lillie
Posted 06 April 2003

Gary Lillie is an Ann Arbor-area realtor who frequently appears in local newspapers such as the Michigan Daily and the Michigan Review, expressing his views on various political issues - sometimes through being interviewed by the newspaper staff, and sometimes by taking out small advertisements espousing his political views on a given subject.

There aren't a lot of people who care enough about political issues to spend their own money taking out advertisements in newspapers, so last December, I decided to e-mail Mr. Lillie about an advertisement that he had run in the Michigan Daily, the contents of which I especially strongly disagreed with. He promptly e-mailed me back, pretty much answering all the questions I had asked of him in my first e-mail. Although it would have been interesting to engage in a continued debate with him over some of these issues, I did not feel that I had the time to do so, and so I did not.

Today however, while reading a copy of the Michigan Review that someone had left on the bathroom floor, I noticed that Mr. Lillie had been interviewed for an article about a recent rally in support of the American troops fighting in Iraq. Just as Mr. Lillie does, I fully support the individual men and women serving our country in the armed forces, but in the interview, Mr. Lillie (and others) expressed some views about people who do not agree with the decision of the United States to engage in a war with Iraq at the current time that I find not only to be largely incorrect, but also quite offensive. Reading the article prompted me to send this e-mail to Mr. Lillie, which I hope will cause him to reconsider some of his opinions on this matter. Whether he does this or not, I am sure that he will at least send an interesting response when the time comes.

It is during times like this that I wish I were more proficient at written communication, particularly at persuasive writing. I want to be able to get my points across clearly without confusing or inadvertantly offending people, but I am not at all sure that this letter will be effective in doing so. Even if it is not, I suppose that at least I have tried, which is better than nothing.


They Don't Write 'em Like They Used To
Posted 02 April 2003

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reading issues of the New York Times from September of 1968 as part of a research project for my Japanese Culture and Society class. While looking for articles about Japan, other articles - not Japan-related, but interesting nonetheless - tend to catch my eye, and I usually end up reading quite a few of them.

One of the most surprising things I have found is the quality of the writing of and the ideas expressed in the letters to the editor, such as the following letter concerning the rioting at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago:

Shocked Briton
To the Editor:

As a young Englishman visiting the United States for a year with a view to remaining here on a permanent basis, I was shocked and dismayed by the events taking place on the streets of Chicago on the night of Aug. 28 as portrayed on television.

What was, perhaps, even more shocking was the total apathy shown by my American business colleagues. Their only reaction was to condemn the television networks for "distorting" the situation. Is the only effect of extensive television and newspaper coverage of important events to make the public believe that brutality perpetrated on civilians is concocted by the communications media to improve their audience or circulation ratings?

It is a matter of great sadness to me to see a country which pays so much lip service to the idea of freedom reduce its moral standards to the same level as was demonstrated by the Russians in their recent invasion of Czechoslovakia.

It merely remains for me to say that in spite of the fact that I earn in New York a net salary four times larger than I can in London, I shall not be filing an application for permanent residence with the U.S. Immigration Service. In fact, I am seriously considering an immediate curtailment of my visit to America.

To live in a country where, for the most part, human beings treat each other with simple dignity is worth far more than any salary the wealth of the United States can offer.

James McLaren
New York, Aug. 29, 1968

Granted, I don't read the New York Times on a regular basis, but I certainly don't see many letters like that in the (current) newspapers that I have read. On the same editorial page as Mr. McLaren's letter appeared, there was also what I considered to be a rather humorous editorial by Russell Baker (evidently a somewhat conservative fellow), pretending to be a "Miss Manners"-style advice column:

"Dear Miss De Rigor,

While confronting a police line recently, I walked from cop to cop shouting 'Pig, pig, pig!' and oinking. To my dismay, the sergeant in charge of the line said, 'sonny why don't you quit playing the fool?' and all the cops laughed at me. What should I have done to make a more graceless contribution to society?

(signed) Unbloodied"

"Dear Unbloodied,

The general decline in American manners can only be impeded by policemen such as you describe. I suggest that you write several angry letters to the mayor pointing out that unless he hires policemen willing to take Draconian measures against such foul-mouthed vermin as yourself, your wife and daughter will be too terrified to use the streets and you will vote against him in the next election."

"Dear Miss De Rigor,

At a street rally the other day the speaker urged all of us to 'get a gun, get a gun, get a gun!' So I wrote off in the mail and got myself a .50-caliber machine gun. Now my wife says it was inconsiderate of me not to have got one for her too. Is she right? Should a gentleman offer a lady a shooting iron?

(signed) Loving Husband"

"Dear Loving Husband,

Yours is not so much a question of etiquette as a question of woman's rights. Every person has the constitutional right to own a gun, and refusal to arm your wife amounts to an infringement upon her rights. It is not enough to tell her she may use your gun, because there may come a day when you do not want her to shoot the party she wants to shoot, particularly if it happens to be yourself. As with toothbrushes, the family rule on guns should be 'his' and 'hers.'"

Even though I don't necessarily agree with all of the implied sentiments of this author, the piece definitely made me laugh, and that isn't something I can often say about most of the conservative pieces in the Kalamazoo Gazette's op-ed page - that's for sure!


Microsoft Pizza
Posted 01 April 2003

The SIGGRAPH chapter here has been giving a series of DirectX lectures, which the Microsoft campus representative has decided to encourage by buying pizza for all the attendees. Although my class schedule doesn't allow me to go to most of these workshops, interesting as they are, I did get a chance to attend one a while back. Now normally, when the University or the College of Engineering buys pizza for a student event, they use the "free pizza for student event" formula for deciding how much pizza to order, which means that the amount of pizza ordered generally falls between 25 and 50 percent of the actual amount of pizza that people would like to eat. Microsoft, on the other hand, must be using the "important people function formula", where they order twice as many pizzas as they think might possibly get eaten. Because of this, there were a few entire uneaten pizzas getting sent home, such as the one below, which I claimed.

For all the money I've spent on Microsoft products, and all the pain and frustration they (ala Windows 9x) have caused me, it seems pretty nice to have things going the other direction for a change!



"Yellow Means Wait, Even if You're Late"
Posted 01 April 2003

On the way to the Dairy Queen last Saturday, I noticed that the traffic light outside the dorm was malfunctioning. In one direction of traffic, it was simply flashing red, but in the other direction, the green lights were lit steadily, and the red lights were flashing. Pretty weird. They were still doing this when I returned from the DQ, so, not really having anything better to do, I went down there with my camera:

I also made a little video clip of the scene which you can view or download by clicking this link. Yes, as you may have guessed, I was a little bit bored that afternoon :).


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