Daylight Savings and Lack-of-Savings

The funny thing about the changing of the time that we do twice a year here in the US is that no one ever seems to know when the day is for changing the clocks. We all know approximately when the time is: in the early spring and early fall. But, even the week before, if you go around asking people, no one seems to know that it will be the next Sunday. Yet, without fail, the night before there is a slew of emails as one person finally figures out that this night is the night to move the clocks. They email their friends and acquaintances who email their friends until about 90% of the people know. Everyone else, like one of my homework group members who isn’t here right now, finds out when they turn on their computers the next day or any other electronic device that automatically adjusts itself.

The most amazing thing to me is the way that this works. First no one knows, then people exponentially find out as more and more people tell each other. It’s a marvel of modern technology. What in the world did people do before email? I know what I did – I used to check the Tv guide channel every morning on the weekends and when I saw that it was later than I thought it was, I knew it was time to change the clocks.

The McDonald’s Theory of War

I’m still listening to The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which I mentioned back back on 12 March, since it’s a massive 21 hour book. Today I heard what I consider to be one of the most interesting theories involving wars. The author of the book noticed that no two countries containing a McDonald’s in their borders had ever fought. In other words, if Country A and Country B both have a McDonald’s they won’t fight each other. If Country C didn’t have a McDonald’s, then it may be attacked by either Country A or Country B, or it may attack either of these countries. His main exclusion to this theory is that a Civil war doesn’t count, so the problems in Yugoslavia don’t disprove the theory. The author then took his theory to McDonald’s who then independently verified that no two countries containing a McDonald’s had ever attacked each other.

What does this mean? Is it just a coincidence that no two McDonald’s countries had ever fought? The author explains himself this way: McDonald’s is just a representation of a country achieving a critical mass of middle class citizens. Poor people can’t afford to eat McDonald’s often enough and rich people would probably eat higher quality food. Therefore, a McDonald’s franchise would only open up in a country with an entrenched middle class. As a generalization, countries with a large middle class are averse to war. They know that wars are increasingly devasting to even the victor.

A country’s economy cannot support an indefinite war (present Iraq conflic aside) and sooner or later the middle class will begin to complain to its officials to end the war. Additionally, when countries go to war, the uncertainty drives away investors and they take away their money with them. Therefore, it is in a country’s best financial interest to stay away from wars.

Although I would like to wholly believe the author of the book, his theory sounds eerily like two men he mentions in the book. These were both people who said in 1910 that war was over and there would never be another war again. Countries were too tied up in economics to wage wars and it would be devastating for both sides. Within just four years of that statement would be the first World War and more would die in that conflict than in all the wars before it. In fact, the men were right, the war decimated the European continent and its countries. Coupled with World War 2, Europe was left behind until very recently, allowing the US to become a world leader. I agree with the author of the book I’m listening to that it would be very chaotic if there were to be another world war. However, I am not so sure that the implication could be made that there would never be another world war.

Let the flow of encrypted bits henceforth flow!

I have finally uploaded my public encryption key to the main pgp server that is the default on KGPG, the encryption program I use on my Linux computer. I also set up my Thunderbird email program to digitially sign all of the messages I send with my public key so that anyone who gets an email from my Gmail account will now have the assurance that I sent them the email and not someone spoofing me. In fact, if they have the ability to check GPG keys on their computer, they will be able to check the key against the server and make sure that the email has not been changed since I wrote it.

Additionally, by using my public key, anyone who wishes to send me an encrypted file can now do so. Once they encrypt the file, I will be the only one able to open it since I’m the only one who posesses my private key.

You may say that I have no need whatsoever for either encryption or digital signing of my emails. Afterall, who the heck am I sending emails to that it is so important to validate my identity? Who is sending me stuff that is so top secret that no one must be allowed to intercept the attachment or file transfer? If you are saying this, you are obviously not a computer geek. We do things because they are l337 and just all around something neat to do. At this point in my life, I’m not doing anything that requires me to use encryption, but it’s fun to be able to.

There IS one important reason for the encryption, though. Spam is getting crazier and crazier with spammers now spoofing other people’s identities. By having a public key that others can check, if my dad gets an email purported to be from me that looks like spam, he can automatically know whether or not I sent it. There’s no need for him to email me back or call me to see if I truly sent the message. The same applies to anyone who might get an email from me.

Additionally, since I have set up Thunderbird to automatically sign all messages I send, it requires my encryption password to be typed when I send an email. Although I’m currently using it only on my Linux machine and there aren’t really viruses for Linux, assuming there was a virus or worm that replicated by sending emails, it probably wouldn’t be able to do so because they wouldn’t know my password. I don’t know this for a fact, since I don’t know how worms function, but if I’m right, it’s just one more reason for everyone to start using GPG digital signing of their messages.

Finally, in the case that you don’t have access to the server I uploaded my public key to, you can access it here! You may want to right-click on the link and pick “Save As” to save it to your computer and add it to your list of public keys on your “key chain”.

As a completely unrelated sidenote that I didn’t think warranted its own post: I received my first comment from someone I don’t personally know. (It’s on my Milestones post) I had this happen a few times before on my Tripod blog, but this is the first time on this one. Hopefully there will be more of those.

Milestones

I have reached a few server milestones this month. My previous post on this blog was my fiftieth post. Not bad for only two month’s worth of posting. Also, not only did I break 1 thousand visits, I surpassed it, and the month isn’t even over yet. I have come very close in the past few months, but I couldn’t get past the thousand mark.

A couple of things have helped to boost my visits. First of all, this blog is the most accessed page on my server. Out of the visitors to my server 1400 of the pages they visited were this blog! A lot of people have come over from the posts I made to the WordPress website. Many, Many others have come from search engines looking for Numa Numa information. I guess it pays to be talking about popular current events. In fact, about 70% of the visiors who came to my site from a search engine were searching for that phenomenon.

Good Friday and contemporary news

Today is Good Friday, the day that Christians celebrate the betrayal and death of Jesus the Christ. Jesus was murdered in order to fullfill the prophecies dating back to the days of the Old Testament books of the Bible. According to the doctrine of Original Sin, when Adam and Eve committed the first act of disobedience against God, they caused all of their descendents to also be born into sin. In order to symbolize a washing away of this sin, God commanded the ancient humans (proto-Hebrews) to sacrifice a purely white lamb, sprinkling the blood symbolically onto the sinners, to take away their sins. The lamb, being without defect, was supposed to stand in for the humans who had the “defect” of sin.

As time passed on, visions came to those who we call prophets in which God promised that one day there would be a “final lamb” to take away humanity’s sins. After this final lamb, there would no longer be a need for sacrificing real lambs. Christians, though not Jews, hold that Jesus was this final lamb. This is why it was a moot point when “The Passion of the Christ” came out that the Jewish leadership or Roman leadership killed Jesus. It was his purpose to die and those who helped that come into fruition were merely players in the game.

It is the doctrine of all major factions of Christianity that there is only one requirements to be absolved from this original sin – simply believing that Jesus was the son of God and agreeing to followin his commands. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.” From here, different factions interpret the Bible differently. I believe this means that you don’t have to ask God to save you every day. While it is healthy (from a psychological and theological point of view) to admit one’s sins daily, in order to humble oneself and not think that he or she is so pious. There are quite a few people who walk around as if they were perfect, they would do well to reflect on their actions daily. However, I digress.

Therefore, I believe that it doesn’t matter what you do right before you die if you are already a Christian. For example, what if someone was driving a car and happened to utter profanity before being killed in a car crash? I think it would be quite dumb if the person couldn’t go to Heaven because they happened to slip up at the last minute. I think most people would agree with me (unless the opposite doctrine had been drilled into them) that a rational God wouldn’t act that way. Therefore, unlike Catholics, I don’t think that suicide can prevent someone from going to Heaven. Basically, it would be the same thing: a sin before death. One may argue that suicide is worse than profanity, but as other scripture claims, all sin is equal before the eyes of the Lord. Any sin is an act of disobedience and that is the real problem, not the actual act.

Thus, I believe that Terry Shiavo should be allowed to die. Having a living will that contains a “do not recescutate” clause may be considered to be suicide, but I say that no one had feeding tubes back in the days of the Bible to keep them alive. Thus, removing the feeding tube is not playing God, but leaving it in is. If someone wished to die naturally, they should be allowed to do so. If I were in a vegetative state, I would want to be allowed to die. As a Christian, I believe that death would allow me to finally get to Heaven instead of having my spirit stuck in a defunct body.

My grandmother, who died on Palm Sunday, wanted to be allowed to die at the moment her body was no longer able to support itself. She didn’t want to be kept alive in a minimal state. Of course, if she could be cured, she wanted to be cured, but she didn’t want to just sit there while her body decayed away. After she died, the doctors called my parents and told them what had occurred. As her white blood cell count went lower and lower, the body was unable to repair the holes that form in the circulatory system of all humans as a part of entropy. Thus, her circulatory system became porous and the blood slowly leaked out into her body. This caused her blood pressure to drop dangerously low and she died when she could no longer breathe on her own or circulate blood. Had the doctors attempted to get her lungs working, they would have only kept her alive two more days with a hole in her throat. Is that worth it? I don’t think so!

WordPress [almost] has 100k downloads!

WordPress is almost at 100,000 downloads. This is easily attributed to the fact that the program is awesome. I don’t know how I ever truly blogged before using this software. Blogging is ridiculously easy and the plugins add infinite possibilities for expanding the blog’s potential.

Another reason for the increase in downloads has to do with others promoting WordPress. A recent Linux Format Magazine cover DVD came with WordPress source files available on it. It was from the previous release, but as people work with it and find out about the upgrades they are sure to continue to use it. Once again I recommend that anyone with their own server (or access to one) use it for their blogging needs.

Return of Numa Numa

Yesterday there was one bright spot in the gloom and doom of the death of my grandmother. I saw the real music video to the Numa Numa song. It’s a European video, so it’s pretty cheesy, In fact, it’s hard to say which is funnier, the real video or the new one on the internet. I found a place containing the real video as a realvideo format. You can view it here. I will be copying it to my server soon so that it can always be experienced.

new stuff

My grandmother was buried today. Everything has revolved around the burial and funeral. It’s been weird meeting people and talking about the future with these sad events around. Not much else to say – I’m very low on sleep. The funeral went from 4p to 1a. Burial stuff began at 9a.

Didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’m looking forward to Cornell.

Thanks, my love, for being here for me these past few days.

the end is here

If you are in a hospital, you will know you’re about to die when your entire family suddenly starts coming in with more and more frequency. My grandmother died today after nearly eight decades of life. I was really close to her and I loved her so much. Ever since I was a little kid we would see her nearly every weekend. On week days my mother would take her to the stores since she couldn’t drive. I remember being dragged along, but now I treasure those moments. That’s back when she could walk and dance and play without pain.

I think that people can feel when they are about to die, though. I don’t think it’s ever a surprise if the person’s already sick. My grandmother pronounced, five minutes before she died, that she was in a lot a pain and that the end was near. But I also believe that people can last as long as they want before dying. She was waiting for my brother and I to show up. She kept asking our mom when we were going to arrive. After we saw her last night, she finally left today.

I’m glad she died because she was suffering so much. In fact, just two minutes before she died, I prayed that God would relieve her of her suffering. The lymphoma was killing her with a ferocity of a tiger killing its prey. Her veins had all collapsed from the IVs and she couldn’t even move on her own. She wanted to go and so she did. I know she’s in heaven reunited, after twenty years, with her one and only husband.

I got pretty lucky with my timing – in fact – I think she was waiting for me to come back. I went down stairs with my father to see a famous church that was a replica of a church in Cuba. Afterwards I went, retrieved my laptop, and went upstairs. Five minutes later, she died.

I think, because of my deep connection with her, I was able to feel her leave. I hadn’t really cried all day long. As soon as I started crying my dad came out, saying she had stopped breathing.

I loved her so much and I’ll post some pictures of her when I get back into town. This might not make sense, but I’m not in a very coherent state right now. I just wanted to get out all my ideas from today.

Dragon Day

Dragon Day Runners
Architects ran through the engineering quad and in and out of bulidings screaming

Today is Dragon Day. As you probably know from my earlier posts, this is a huge tradition at Cornell. It was started back in the 1800s as a Spring Prank by the greatest Cornell prankster of them all, Willard Straight, and continues to this day as a rivalry between the Architects and Engineers. Yesterday they ran through all of the buildings decked in green paint and, althought you can’t tell because the picture is so small, skimpy clothes. However, if you look at the next picture, it’s quite clear. Yes, it was 30 degrees F outside and the freshman architects were running around in panties, bras, and boxers. But at least they were running, so that may have helped a bit. In this second picture I love the pair in the center of the shot, jumping for joy as though they were about to win a race.

more d-day runners
One of my favorite shots of them running past me

I happened to have my camera because there had been a breakfast with the ECE department heads and students and I had planned to take some pictures. I ended up not taking any pictures, athough talking with the faculty and other students was a lot of fun. I was rewarded a few hours later when I saw the people dressed in green and whipped out my camera as fast as I could to pop off some shots. I ended up with around 9 pictures, but these two were the absolute best. The others will probably go up on the server when I upgrade and get more disk space. Back to my story – I was SO happy because I wouldn’t have had my camera with me if it hadn’t been for the lunch and if I had seen them running around and hadn’t had my camera, I would have been bummed out for the rest of the day for not being able to capture the moment.

Assembling the dragon
A rare shot of the dragon being assembled

I was again surprised and very happy when I went to pick up my brother’s suitcase for Spring Break. On my way to his place I saw the dragon being built, right outside of Rand Hall. Since they usually keep it a secret, I was surprised to see it out where everyone could see. After picking up the bags I decided to ask them if I could take some pictures if I got my camera from the house. They didn’t mind at all. So now you get to see some pictures of the inner workings of the dragon.

more assembly
The back-side of the dragon

What made the assembly pictures special to me, in addition to the fact that this was my last chance to see it, is that I won’t be able to participate in Dragon Day tomorrow. So, being able to participate in this way is very satisfying.

Enjoy Dragon Day if you’re a Cornellian and on campus tomorrow. Have a safe break and come back to campus in one piece.

Back to Pictures

For a while I had taken a break from photography. There were two basic reasons for this – first of all, it had become very cold and that disuaded me from taking my camera around. I was afraid of breaking it with the temperature difference between the outside air and the buildings. I was afraid of falling and breaking the camera or hurting myself trying to protect it. But, most importantly, with all my jackets and sweaters it was a bit of a hassle to carry my camera in its protective case. Second, I really like editing my pictures and making them a little closer to perfect. This was very time consuming and I didn’t have the time for it.

But recent events have brought me back into photography. First of all, as the days go by I become more and more aware of the fact that I am soon going to graduate and will not return to Cornell for a long time. I have, therefore, began to document my surroundings. Speaking of documenting, the documentary style of photography is appealing to me more and more when I read about it and see the types of pictures taken. Second, about a month ago I began posting my pictures on www.flickr.com (this link goes to my particular photos) after reading about it in a Linux article which mentioned the that Flickr ran completely on open source software.

After taking a look around, I realized that Flikr was the best way for me to get my pictures out to a new audience. Yeah, some people do find their way to my website somehow, but I really want to reach people with my photography. Flickr is a great place to do that because of the way photos are linked up. People can search for pictures based on key words, favorite photographers, favorite interests, and other many search methods. It is a proper community with quite a few talented people involved. Another way it gets people to view photos is by having people leave comments. The comments are usually positive or constructive and, along with the comment, a link to the section of the person commented is left. This is how I end up seeing other people’s artwork. Then when I make comments on their art, others go to mine and so on and so forth. This has spurred me to take more pictures to put up including artistic, fabricated pictures and old fashioned pictures that have interesting subjects. The only bad thing about Flickr is that the free accounts have a 10 megabyte upload limit per month. I can’t ever wait until the end of the month to be able to post more pictures. It’s also quite addictive checking back every day or so to see what kinds of comments others have left on your site or which pictures have been marked as someone’s favorite.

Proof of God in a commercial?

I was watching a commercial today on MSNBC for a knee replacement technology. The ad had some woman who lives in San Francisco and the infinitely large hills there were just killing her knees because she had arthritis. But then modern medical science gave her: “a replacement knee that, unlike the ones produced by other companies, bends and turns to ALMOST simulate the function of a real knee.” And it continued with the usual disclaimers – don’t elect to have this done if you’re sick, the knee may gain setience and kill you – stuff like that. But what stuck out for me in the ad was the fact that the replacement knee ALMOST was like a real knee. ALMOST. Are you telling me that modern science can put a man on the moon, build a space station, make computers that store so much information that if you would have told the original creators of the computer you would have been thrown in a luny bin, can manipulate NANO objects to build things for them, yet it cannot make a fully functional knee?!? WTF is that?

While this may not be concrete enough for you, for me this is just another proof of God. Or, to generalize, some Divine Organizer of the Universe who I believe is God but you may call Ganesh or Shiva or something like that. (I’m sorry, but I never was a huge student of Eastern religion so sorry if I’m totally wrong because Shiva is god of destruction or soemthing) At any rate, look at it this way: I took a class last semester on the design of CMOS chips. I actually learned the principles used to desgin them and desgined a few on the virtual level with a simulator. These chips are so complex in their behavior that most scientists and engineers only approximate the behavior. The computer you are using to view this page is a wonderful thing. But look at the human body. The knee’s behavior is even more complex than a computer chip. If it were not, scientists would have figured it out a long time ago. I don’t think they have some evil wish to see old people suffer.

So how could we end up with a part of our body which seems to have such a simple purpose, bending the leg in half for walking; sitting; etc, and yet be so complex? Accidentally through all kinds of dice throwing by nature? I think not! Did you know that the eye is mostly water? Except for the most rudimentary explanations, doctors have no idea how the eye actually does what it does.

Again, this may not seem to be enough for you – seeing a commercial for the latest and greatest in technology which cannot even replicate the “simple” function of the knee perfectly – but it certainly makes me think about how complex we are and that some being had to have designed it.