Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Monuments & Memories

The Atlanta Airport

My trip to Washington takes me through Atlanta, which makes all sorts of sense if you are Delta and believe all flights should be routed through Delta. Me, I think that a flight where my layover is somewhere between Seattle and Washington makes a little more sense. But then again, I don't run a multi-billion dollar airline.

But the airport is nice, if not a little strange. It was the first reminder on the trip that the United States is really not one nation... it is many separate areas with a wide variety of people and cultures. For example, at Seatac smoking is strictly forbidden. Voices come over the PA speaker with great frequency to denounce the behavior and banish those who engage in it to the outside curb (and only specially marked areas of the curb). Contra Atlanta, where the airport is a "limited smoking airport." Oh sure, they still limit smoking, but the approach to the limitation is so very different as to be striking. That combined with the gospel music piping over the speakers and billboards advertising "credible cheese" and I really began to feel like the South is a very different place than from whence I came.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Continued Stories of the Death of American Unions

I'm pro-labor. That's easy for me to say because I'm not ever going to actually be a laborer. It's not that I dislike the work... some of the most enjoyable jobs I've ever had involved lots of physical labor. But these days I have a degree (with one more coming down the pipe) and a whole host of skills that put me into a class where I better serve society by performing professional tasks like programming, lawyering, or policy work. But I'm pro-labor.

I can't really describe why I'm pro-labor. Many of my friends, strong Democrats who will one day run for office and be rather successful at it, are not really pro-labor... but may come around once they realize it's a vote they can't do without. But I have no illusions about running for office (although more and more of my friends do), so my support comes from somewhere else. Maybe it's may old "radical roots" and beliefs shared with my Aunt. Maybe it something I read one day. I don't really know. What I do know is that I'm a dying breed among my generation.

The decline of labor is something of a fascination for me. I understand why capital would want to see them fall, or why Republicans are anything but supportive. I even understand why it is hard to organize the tech-heavy industries (self-reliance is one of the corner stones of being a geek). But I can't really grasp why so many laborers are opposed to unions. Which is why I'm so surprised when I find someone who is opposed to unions, and when I do, I think I plan to write a few words about it.

Our first tale is from my shuttle ride to Seatac Airport on the way to Washington, D.C. As the shuttle dropped off a couple at the Northwestern Airlines curb, the driver commented how the couple was off to get married. I responded that crossing a picketline is no way to get a marriage started (for background, the NWA mechanics went a strike this past week). The driver, however, was not a big fan of the union and went on to blame the collapse of many airlines on the unions and their unreasonable demands. Apparently Shuttle Express once tried to unionize, but didn't see the process through. In the words of the driver, he didn't like unions because they believe "you're either with 'em, or against 'em." Maybe so, I told him, but that mentality has been passed down over the generations because in the past those who were "with unions" were shot by those "against 'em." There wasn't a lot of middle ground in those days. Suffice to say, he was yet another perfect laborer refusing the benefits of unionization not because it wasn't good for him economically, but because it didn't set with his personal politics.

Best Onion Article Ever

Oh my goodness... I couldn't stop laughing. Chances are this particular behavior will not be repeated, further proving my geekiness. But for those who are into zoning regulation and city planning, this thing is pure gold.

Read and share.

Coming to Grips with the Federal Power

I've written before that I worry about strong central government. I've argued the point before ACS folks, in law classes, and on my personal Blog. I do so knowing full well the consequences of a weakend Federal government. Reduced access to reproductive services in deeply conservative areas, less civil rights enforcement, more local corruption. All of these things are certainly bad... but I believe that a weakened Federal government also allows for stronger State governments who can step in and start cleaning up their jurisdictions. Personally, I think Washington State would be much better off if we didn't have the Feds telling us how to manage our environment and economy.

But I have finally found the issue that has made me rethink my position: education. First, the obligatory cite to a secondary source for reference. Science article in today's New York Times. Some of you are too lazy to read it all, some don't have a registration, so let me hit the high points for ya:
  • American adults in general do not understand what molecules are
  • Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity
  • Only about 10 percent know what radiation is
  • One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth
Let that sink it for just a moment... 20% of the population believes the Sun revolves AROUND the Earth! And you're all damned to Hell if you think otherwise. As the article correctly points out, this particular gem of a theory has been out of vogue since the 17th century. And wouldn't you know it, there is a high correlation between these delightful beliefs and the apparently political salient belief that Intelligent Design should be taught side-by-side with Evolution. Thankfully ID will eventually subsumed by the likes of the Pastafarians, so I'm not too worried about that particular fad.

But I am supremely worried about the adequacy of education in this country if this is the norm. Granted, many of the people surveyed are old; educated by a different system in a different time. Maybe we've made enough changes to the education system to correct the issue. Or, possibly, the problem is so systemic and related to the American way of life that it cannot be excised. I don't really know... but I do know that this particular problem isn't going to be solved by the states alone.

Time to write my Congressman!

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Perfect Fool

I'm a pretty straitlace guy. When people bounce balls around offices, I ask them to stop. When people play with things that could break easy, I ask them to stop. When people are thinking about the consequences of their actions, I ask them to stop. It seems like I'm always asking people to stop. Today, I wish someone had told me to stop.

It started innocently enough. Everyone in the GPSS Office had been goofing around waiting for a meeting to start. Kim, our Office Manager, had been suffering sinus trouble all day and had laid down on the couch instead of going home since she had to take minutes at the meeting. Someone said something, and then someone responded, and then Kim made some kind of quip about me. I don't even remember what the joke was about, but something set me off.

In a joking manner I went over to the couch with my pen, cap removed, and begun to fling the tip of the pen around. I've done this before with dry eraser maker and ruined a perfectly good pair of pants in the process; typing it I can't help but think what an idiotic thing to do. But there I was, flinging a black ink pen knowing full well.

Wouldn't you know it, ink across Kim's neck and on her shirt. And not just any shirt mind you... her favorite shirt in the whole world that she had kept in excellent condition for more than four years. I immediately felt so stupid, and she was angry (rightfully so) and ran off to the bathroom. This lead to a 45 minute meeting full of awkward silence and humiliation as I faced my peers with the full knowledge that I, straightlaced Sean, had committed the stupidest act seen in that office in a mighty long time.

I have seriously no idea how to make it up to her...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Table Move: Successful

I am proud to report that the table move operation was a rousing success. I didn't kill any pedestrians Downtown, the table never flew out the back of the truck, and in the end, GPSS is now home to three large pieces of wood that may one day form a 10ft conference table. Here's a little photo journal for those visual learners among us.

The table tops, of which there are two, five feet in length. Turns out the table was actually sawed in half.

The bottom leg parts

The truck loaded with Sheridan, my trusty helper

Me, with keys, showing off that fact that no one has died yet

The truck at the HUB loading dock

Inside of the loading elevator

The bottom part in the GPSS Office.

Behold, the huge top pieces in there final resting place... until we actually put the thing together

Buying a Big Table

I'm scared to death of my "Big Task" for the day... taking a University vehicle into the heart of downtown to pickup a giant conference table for the GPSS. Its 10ft long (in two sections) and probably 4ft wide in the middle. Like I said, huge! But that's not nearly as scary as the idea of driving into downtown with a University vehicle. I haven't driven downtown in sometime, and Lord knows driving a big white truck that I don't own isn't going to make the whole thing any easier. I'll post photos of the truck and table after I complete the task. Provided I'm not dead.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Friends Who Blog

At GPSS we have quite a foursome among the officers (augmented by our cheerful, if not formally dead inside, Office Manager). There's Adam, the President, who is mild-mannered and as nice as one can be. Just don't cross him, because he will gladly take you down a peg, but always with a smile. Katherine, the Secretary, remains one of the largest mysteries in my life. More to be said about her in the future, to be sure. Of course, there's me... the less said about him, the better.

But today I want to say a few words about Nick, the Vice President. First, he's got a website. A very funny website. It's well written and nicely laid out, complete with photos. The site is awfully personal, so it may not make much sense to those who don't know him. But I still think it's worth a gander. The blog is called "Because I'm Asian," which had me in stitches when I first read it. See, Nick is of Asian ancestry (although how much is a matter of debate) and has a tendency to blame his various shortcomings on his asianness. Mention that he forgot to fill out a form... you'll quickly hear him say "it's because I'm Asian." It's become quite the joke around the office. He comes back next week from a two week stint in Cheney, WA. I'm excited.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Developments in the War on Terror

Strikes me that nearly everything our government does these days which could be considered controversial can be explained by the War on Terror (or the Global Struggle against Extremism, etc). With the simple wave of the hand, a huge segment of the population becomes complacent and worry free... "how can something the government does to fight terror possible be bad for me?" Of course, this kind of thinking is what's going to make BRAC a failure this year, has kept the Patriot Act on the books, and is the sole motivation behind the REAL ID Act, an onerous piece of legislation that requires the states to verify citizenship before issuing a drivers license. Many states don't mind non-citizens having drivers licenses... having a license is a strong indication of having insurance and try to lead a live above the table. If the states capitulate (and early signs say they may not) it will only serve to drive non-citizens deeper into the underground and make it that much harder to enter society.

But that little story isn't what inspired me to write about the War on Terror. Today the Seattle Times reports that a Spokane "Online University" (known as a "Diploma Mill") is being investigated for a whole host of crimes. The central claim? That their diplomas are allowing terrorists to obtain H1-B visas. The visa program is not without its critics. Many claim that allowing foreigners into the country to take advanced well paying jobs is not the "American Way" (as opposed to coming into the country illegally to pick fruit for below minimum wage, which is equivalent to baseball and motherhood). I'm no big fan of these Online Universities, especially the constant email flow. Why would I want to pay all that money for a degree when I already have one and a second one is but a year away?

Beyond the annoyances, I figure Online Universities actually serve and important purpose. Knowing they exist provides incentives for would-be-employers to check the authenticity and accreditation of the applicant's University. Seems that would help raise that status of those Universities that do both to go through the extensive and expensive accreditation process. Its true that such investigation would be expensive, but the market is neat; such a demand would rapidly create a cheep and efficient way to secure such information. But now that these Online Universities are a threat to national security I doubt the information market system will be allowed to work its magic.

On the plus side, it's one less source of spam.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Recent Purchases

With the various jobs I've held this summer finally paying off, my credit cards paid down, and no more girl friend related expenses (which, for the record, were worth every cent), I find myself somewhat flush with cash. Not so much that I'm looking at condos... but enough that I actually visited today to check on the price of my dream car (White VW Cabrio). Turns out I won't be buying one tomorrow ($13,000, with 64,000 miles on it).

Instead, I've made a few smaller purchases to tide the thirst for consumption. The first is something I've been meaning to buy for sometime, my domain name. I am now the proud owner of, which should have something worth looking at in the next couple of days. Mind you, that something will probably be this blog, but it's all a work in progress.

Far more exciting, if you ask me, is my new Tux CD holder (pictured below). He holds 16 CDs, and I've stuffed him with every Linux Distro I think is worth having. Now, whenever a friend wants to baptize his computer, I'll need to bring the white robes and the penguin.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Google T-Shirt Spotting

This evening, while procuring ice cream for our Friday night Battlestar Galactica watching shindig (yes, every week... and no, I don't care if you think its geeky), I spotted a most unfamiliar site. I had selected my white Google T-Shirt, given to me by an old roommate who now works for Google down in sunny California, for the particular evening festivities. It's the standard design with the colored letters from the world famous logo.

Anyway, at the QFC we had just picked up the carton of ice cream (Cookies 'n Cream) and were making our way to the register when I was litterally stopped in my tracks. There, before me, was this gorgeous blond girl looking at soda pop. And what was she wearing, you might ask? A girl-fitted Google T-shirt. It wasn't quite like mine, mind you. It was green with white lettering... but it certainly said Google and had their web address. I had to confirm with my associate that I wasn't hallucinating. I mean, outsite of Elise and Jill, I've never seen a girl wear a Google T-shirt, and it public too!

I found the whole event rather surreal, what with the same T-shirt and the different genders. Of course, you might be asking if I went up and introduced myself to this goddess of geek. No. I'm like three weeks out of a relationship people... these things take time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The New Era

Today I started my new workout program and I'm totally excited. Its called Power90 and its available from a company called Beachbody. Purchasing the system was tremendously annoying, as it kept offering me additional packages and add-ons. Drove me nuts. And it took two weeks to get here... which they warned me about. But its sort of strange when they sell the product as "just 90 days to a new you" and they really mean 104 days. Kind of threw off my schedule.

But enough of the bad, the system itself seems right up my ally. You switch between circuit training (weights and stuff) and sweat training (cardio, I presume). Today I started with the circuit training, and it was hard. But it felt great. One of the big problems with my previous efforts is simply not knowing what to do, or in what order. With the videos I just follow along and they take care of the rest. I don't need to go anywhere, I'm not weather dependent, its just me and my willpower.

I took "before pictures" which I won't share with you because its pretty bad. But maybe, if we're all lucky, I'll post something when I start looking a bit more healthy. Come November 1st, we'll see how things shaped up.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Done with Wizards

Thursday marked my last day at Wizards of the Coast. Due to the departure of my supervising attorney and certain financial considerations, they decided to let me go almost two months earlier than planned. For a variety of reasons, probably not best aired in public, this is a good development. If nothing else, it means more time working for jobs where the workproduct is tangible and beneficial (and the pay is WAY better).

That being said, the last day really went poorly and gave me reason to pause and reflect on what I may have done wrong. As I mentioned, my supervising attorney is leaving (for Microsoft, actually...) which is reason for a going away party. The day they told me I would be let go they also said I would be invited to said going away party, but when the final day came around, no such invitation was extended. In fact, my departure went by without hardly a notice. So, it makes me wonder, did I fail to reach out in that environment and make friends who might have cared that I was actually leaving?

This has always been a tough issue for me. I want to do well at my job, which means working hard and keeping on task. Idle chit-chat with fellow employees, asking non-job related questions, introducing myself to people in the halls; it all seems unrelated to doing well and can even serve as a detriment to the job. It also means you go unnoticed. I did the same thing in Congressman McDermmott's office when I was an intern. It took me a full month before I finally broke out of my shell and started having a "good time." And that was a 40 hour job. It's an equally slow process at school. Here I am, a full two years into a three year program; I am just starting to feel comfortable and welcomed.

In the span of two years where I final feel comfortable going over to other people's places, some have found their soul-mates, best friends, roommates, and colleagues for life. I'll be lucky to leave law school with a few names and outdated cellphone numbers. I'm clearly doing something wrong... but I really have no idea how to do it any differently.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Difficulties with Licensing

I had one of those moments of insights today. It starts on the bus where I finished the last few chapters of Prof. Lessig's second book, The Future of Ideas. The chapters culminate his lengthy review of the IP system in America and how it is killing our collective culture. I don't need to summarize his points here to tell the story, only to say that I very much agree with his idea that free culture is a concept worth protecting.

Where I have occasionally disagreed with the Professor is with his approaches to reaching a healthy free culture. I've certainly been supportive of cases like Eldred v. Ashcroft (trying to repeal the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act), and I'm also a big fan of Creative Commons... but other tactics (like massive copyright reform) have been extreme at times.

Today I received an interesting assignment at Wizards relating to a fan site. One of the managers had decided to allow the fan in question to post certain items that would not be permissible without Wizards permission (read: he needed a copyright license). I was asked to identify what kind of rights and restrictions we should establish when granting this person permission.

Turns out that when you are trying to protect your future, unforeseen uses, and potential abuses that it is very hard to encourage "free culture." I consider myself a strong supporter of the movement, but I had a very tough time coming up with ways to protect the underlying right yet allowing others to make "free culture" type uses. Which leads me to my insightful moment... that's Lessig's whole point!

When government gives someone a privilege, like a copyright monopoly, they will do whatever they can to enhance and protect that privilege. Which means that even if we each individually believe that free culture is a "good thing," we will each individually act contrary to that belief because its benefits us individually. I don't think it is reasonable to expect individuals to grant their copyrights and whatnot into a "free culture" setting without a societal commitment. The FOSS movement has accomplished this by giving something back in return for giving code to the community (access to everyone else's code). But that sort of sharing works best in software... not so well in other works. So, if we are serious about this "Free Culture" and want to return to the society that gave us our community, its going to require a societal act, because individually we are going to act against our pasts and to the detriment of our futures.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Blogging Once More

I haven't posted in almost two months. Its really inexcusable, because without regular posting there is no way to keep track of all my exciting life stories. How can I go on denying the world my great adventures? So, I'm going to start posting again. It's time to get things back in order around here in my internet doorstep.

This weekend has been an amazing series of events worth listing, because it's just so much more than I would ever do under normal circumstances. But somehow Seattle managed to conspire against me and scheduled litterally dozens of neat events around town and I went to as many as possible. In chronological order I did the following: The Funky Market in Pioneer Square, Moose Days in Roosevelt, the World Champion Disc Free Throw (very cool... freestyle disc throwing) in Greenlake, the Ballard Seafoodfest in Ballard, walked around Greenlake with Sam Castic, and lost $20 to friends in a poker game in Wallingford. What a schedule! I was outdoors so much, I actually got some color!

Stay tuned as I go back into the past by posting events with a timestamp approximate to when they actually happened. Its gonna be cool.