25 Jul

The Shadowland is waiting…

This is an issue that has been on my mind lately.  It seems that either I had the best political science professor EVAR, or no one else was paying attention.  In any case, the questions continues to arise, how can politician 1 be a democrat and be for the war in Iraq, and politician 2 be a republican and be pro-choice?  Or whatever.

It really isn’t complex.  Republican and Democrat are names of parties, they are not vectors on a political grid.  There are actually four (4) cardinal vectors of political philosophy.  They are Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian, and Populist.  You might have a pretty good idea of what the first two mean, but it seems as though few have a working definition of the final pair.

Here is a brief on each paradigm straight from the wiki.  I don’t agree with these personally, but rather than complicate matters, included them here as a basis of comparison.

  • Conservatism is a philosophy defined by Edmund Burke as “a disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve”. The term derives from conserve; from Latin conservāre, to keep, guard, observe. Classical conservatism does not readily avail itself to the ideology of objectives. To a conservative, the goal of change is less important than the insistence that change be effected with a respect for the rule of law and traditions of society.  Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism
  • Liberalism is an ideology, philosophical view, and political tradition which holds that liberty is the primary political value.  Broadly speaking, modern liberalism seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, especially of government and religion, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports relatively free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of minorities are protected.  In modern society, liberals favour a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed. Modern liberalism advocates usually a limited degree of government interference in the free market, often in the form of anti-discrimination laws, civil service examinations, universal education, and progressive taxation. This philosophy frequently extends to a belief that the government should provide for a degree of general welfare, including the dole for the poor, housing for the homeless, and medical care for the sick. Such publicly-funded initiatives and interferences in the market are rejected by modern advocates of classical liberalism, which emphasizes free private enterprise, individual property rights and freedom of contract; classical liberals hold that economic inequality, as arising naturally from competition in the free market, does not justify the violation of private property rights.  Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism
  • Libertarianism is a political philosophy advocating that individuals should be free to do whatever they wish with their person or property, as long as they do not infringe on the same liberty of others. Libertarians hold as a fundamental maxim that all human interaction should be voluntary and consensual. They maintain that the initiation (or threat) of physical force against another person or his property, or the commission of fraud, is a violation of that principle. Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian
  • Populism is a political philosophy or rhetorical style that holds that the common person’s interests are oppressed or hindered by the elite in society, and that the instruments of the state need to be grasped from this self-serving elite and used for the benefit and advancement of the people as a whole. Hence a populist is one who is perceived to craft his or her rhetoric as appeals to the economic, social, and common sense concerns of average people.  Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populist

So, what does this mean?  Here’s a visual:


As a hot-button example, Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life is in some ways more of a Populist / Libertarian issue, rather than Conservative / Liberal.  In the traditional conservative outlook, Abortion is only bad because it is a change to the status quo. On the other hand, in a traditional Libertarian view, Abortion is bad because it infringes upon the rights of another, whereas in the populism ideal the individual is not relevant.

Surely at this point, the reader has already discovered a flaw in this simplified presentation.  And that flaw is the debate regarding whether life begins at the point of conception or not.  To which I say, “Precisely!”  That takes us to a fully two-dimensional Cartesian grid, rather than the one-dimensional “right or left” ethic.  If the reader will grant, at least for the sake of argumentation, that the conservative places the origin of the individual at the point of conception (at least) from historical perspective, whereas the liberal from the understanding of (like-minded) science would not do so.

I’ll completely ignore all comments on the above–think of this as stick figures on a chalk board, not a landscape in oils.  Suffice to say that I’m fully aware that the debate is more complex than I’ve represented–once again, that is not the focus of this essay.  Oh, and read for comprehension–you might not disagree if you try to understand what I’m really saying.

So now we can chart our apples-and-oranges viewpoints on the grid:

  • Viewpoint A is completely pro-choice and favors more government control.
  • Viewpoint B doesn’t mind more government control, but is against abortion.
  • Viewpoint C is probably against abortion in general terms, but maybe is in favor of all types of stem-cell research.
  • Let’s then say that Viewpoint D is completely against government control and abortion.

The main thrust here is that political viewpoints are many times unintelligible when taken purely on a “left-right” continuum.  Unless they are plotted against on a two-axis grid, often actions made by politicians make little sense (granted that they make sense at all).

So, take this for what it’s worth–hopefully this will add some perspective.

08 Jul

Wait! Let me get a hammer!

Well, it was bound to happen.  After all the hideously foolish things I’ve survived involving explosives, some of our antics have been caught on video.  Ok.  We purposely caught ourselves on video.  The right honorable Dr. Chris Lazarro, esq. and my own nutty self, Joseph Baxter, Sky Captain, ret. got together this Fourth of July and managed–barely–not to blow ourselves apart.

Oh, the fun that was had by all.  Actually, I think our wives were laughing at rather than with, but sometimes that’s hard to determine.

Let’s get this train wreck a-rollin’ with my pursuit of the elusive rocket glider.  Or, rather, since that isn’t availible, we’ll start with me taping bottle rockets to paper airplanes.

icon_mediaplayer1Rocket Gliders by Joseph Baxter

I love it.  The best part is my fight-or-flight double-step about halfway through the video.

Next, Chris will perform his rendition of the classic tune “Maybe I Over-Thought This” in four-part harmony.  Will our hero be able to successfully air-start a multi-stage bottle rocket?  Will random bits of paper ever really earn the name “stableizer fins”?  Will that wacky fuse ever light?  Tune in and see!

icon_mediaplayer1Airstart Prototype by Chris Lazarro

Disclaimer:  No bottle rockets were harmed in the making of these videos.  Much.

06 Jul

Fast and Danger

I received this in my inbox earlier today:



Thank you for taking the Global Knowledge 360 Degrees
of Knowledge exam.  By completing the exam, you were entered to win one of 10
Microsoft Xbox 360sâ„¢.  I’m happy to inform you that you have been selected as
one of our winners.

You will receive a $500 Amazon.com claim code that
can be used to purchase a Microsoft Xbox 360â„¢ or any other product from
Amazon.com.  To claim you prize, simply reply to this email and verify your
name, phone number and mailing address.



Having actually won very few things* in my lifetime, this came as an exciting shock.  My wife asked if I was going to get the 360, and I told her no.  I don’t think I’d use it.  Sometime soon I want to build a MCE box for the bedroom, and THEN I’ll get a 360 to stream video to the familyroom TV…but that project is on indefinite hold.

On the other hand, there IS the trip to Europe in September…

  • Canon Powershot A620 7.1MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom – $214.95
  • Apple 30 GB iPod with Video Playback White – $279.99
  • KOSS Stereo In Ear Ear Plugs – The Spark Plug – $8.99

Came out to about $503.00 with free shipping.

So, yes, I got the camera.  That’s a no brainer.  My $200.00 Cool Stuff certificate from Global Knowledge will not be availible until AFTER I take the training, which is scheduled for October–so I would not have had the camera I wanted for Europe.  I’ve never before owned a nice digital camera, so this ought to be great.

As for the KOSS earphones, I’ve been doing some research and these seem to be some of the best in the less-than-$100 category.  There are some $40.00 Sony parts, but I thought I’d give these a shot first on the strength of the reviews and the fact that I wouldn’t be out much money if I didn’t like them.  In any case, I had  been planning to order a pair for about a month now.

The iPod?  Well, who doesn’t want an iPod?  My Dell DJ Ditty has done a fine job, but well…it only holds 512MB and can’t do video or pictures.  But, to be honest, that wasn’t the only compelling reason.  I wanted it, once again, for Europe.  You see, I’m not taking a laptop with me.  We are trying to go as light as possible.  And while I was browsing the cameras the other day, I saw this jobber:


Which syncs a camera to an iPod.  So, that’s my plan.  Use my iPod as my picture depot.  Once thing, though, seems like most people are saying that it is hard on the batteries, so I’ll probably get an AC adapter, too.


I’m still giddy.

Now I need to research open source software so I don’t have to use iTunes.  I know Rhapsody will work with an iPod, but I’m hoping for something even simpler.  If anyone has any ideas, lemme know.

Oh, and Global Knowledge has a customer for life!  Everyone go:  http://www.globalknowledge.com


* I won a 3Dfx VooDoo 3 card from some random website once.  I won a case of paper plates once while working at Sweetheart Cup Company.  And I *thought* I won a Milton Bradley Clue game once when I was about 5 years old, however, looking back I think it was my brother Ty’s ticket that was choosen–but he was a good enough big brother to let me claim it.