Technology issues in the election

OK, I’m really going to try not to be political with this. It’s already pretty clear who we support in the upcoming election, but I thought putting together this list would be interesting.

The following is a list of four major technology-related issues that are important in the upcoming presidential election, and the candidates’ positions on them. I will say that I don’t agree 100% with either candidate here, and I’ll try to be as objective as possible in putting together this list. Here goes…

Net Neutrality

What it is: Currently, your internet service provider (ISP) is required to give all internet traffic equal treatment, whether you are looking at ebay,, or This basically ensures that you can get what you want, when you want it. Some ISPs have announced their intention to begin treating some traffic with greater priority than others. For example, might pay your ISP to give preferential treatment to them, which means that yahoo will work faster than google, or any other website that doesn’t pay for priority handling.

Barack Obama’s stance: Supports enacting a law to ensure a neutral internet

John McCain’s stance: Believes ISPs should be able to determine what content they deliver and how they deliver it

Intellectual Property Protection

What it is: Copyrights, patents, and all that stuff.

Obama: Wants to ensure that intellectual property (IP) is well protected both in the USA and internationally

McCain: Says government should handle blatant IP issues, but warns against “protectionism”

Broadband Availability

What is is: Helping as many people as possible have access to fast, always-on, internet connections.

Obama: Supports government involvement in getting broadband access for everyone. Also wants to change the legal definition of “broadband:” Currently the government defines broadband as 200kb/s or faster. Obama wants to raise that number so that it has to be faster to qualify as “broadband.” (For the sake of reference, at 200 kb/s, it will take about 3 minutes to download a typical pop music mp3).

McCain: Supports increased broadband access via competition between ISPs, instead of government intervention. No comment from McCain on the definition of “broadband.”

Internet and Telephone Privacy

What’s the big deal? The internet has created a whole new world of privacy issues: How long should a website that you buy something from keep your credit card number? How much personal information should myspace and facebook be allowed to publish to the masses? What about information about your children? Also, the national security climate has led to government agencies listening in on phone calls or monitoring internet use without a warrant (“warrantless wiretapping”). Many believe that this is unconstitutional, while others argue that it is not actually “search and seizure” as defined by the constitution. When the issue finally makes it to the supreme court, IF it is deemed to be unconstitutional, an interesting legal question arises as to the liability of the telephone companies and ISPs that participated in the wiretap.

Obama: Wants to increase the Federal Telecommunications Commission’s budget to give them more resources to track down cyber-criminals. Wants to update laws to ensure that information gathered for national security is properly used, and that all intelligence-gathering is done by completely legal means.

McCain: Supports retroactive immunity for companies that participated in warantless wiretapping. Believes the government should use all instruments of national power to fight the war against terrorists. Says that this must be done without “impinge[ing] on the rights of our own citizens or restrict[ing] their freedoms.”

As already stated, we’re supporting Obama this time around, but I tried to make this list as objective as possible and to not take anything out of context, giving each candidate a valid representation in terms of the technological issues that we currently face.

Without pushing my views on you, the only thing I’m going to encourage you to do is to make sure you’re registered to vote, and when the time comes, go out and vote!

It’s time…

We have avoided anything political on this blog for a while, but the time has finally come…

There were a few candidates of varying persuasions that we felt an inclination for, but most have dropped out of the race, and only one remains: Barack Obama.

We do not agree with everything that Obama stands for, but we agree with most of it:

“I don’t want to just end the war, I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.”

“We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.”

John McCain still thinks the war in Iraq is a good idea.  He wants our troops in Iraq forever, or indefinitely, whichever comes first.

Clinton still refuses to admit that her voting in favor of the war was a mistake.

Obama has opposed the war since the beginning.  We want a president who had the foresight to know that this would not turn out well, and the integrity to stand up for that, even when it was unpopular.

“Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let’s set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let’s recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let’s make college more affordable, and let’s invest in scientific research, and let’s lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.”

Obama believes in keeping the internet open and free (did you even know that many of your representatives are under the influence of lobbyists who want to close up the internet and allow your internet provider to charge you extra for visiting any web site that they don’t run?).  Obama believes that education, not war, is our future, and wants to put our money where it will help rather than hurt.

“We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates… My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

Imagine that you could provide for yourself any kind of health insurance you want.  You could simply declare “this is my health coverage, because I said so.”  That is what you get to do when you’re a U.S. Senator or Congressman.  As a result, they have pretty good coverage.  Obama wants to give every American the opportunity to have that same coverage, and to ensure that every American has health insurance – that no one will be forced into poverty and bankruptcy as the result of some circumstance beyond their control or their ability to foresee.

“I believe that America’s free market has been the engine of America’s great progress. It’s created a prosperity that is the envy of the world. It’s led to a standard of living unmatched in history. And it has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery…We are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other’s success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.”

Obama wants to make taxes simpler for the majority of Americans: the middle class.  Obama wants to provide tax breaks to the middle class, instead of the rich upper class, who got tax breaks they didn’t even ask for from the Bush administration.

Now for a call to action:  This week we celebrate the birthday of a laywer from Illinois who, through integrity and hope, made a difference, and saved our nation: Abraham Lincoln.

In the spirit of that hope, we have made a donation to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  We followed a call to action from, who has asked people to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday by donating a multiple of $5.01 to the Obama campaign (Lincoln appears on the $5 bill and the penny).

We’ve contributed what we could responsibly afford, but it’s going to take more than just us and the others who’ve acted so far.

It’s going to take a movement. It’s going to take millions of people to beat back the avalanche of dollars from Washington lobbyists and special interests, who are planning to spend more money than ever to try to own our political process and dictate our policies in Washington.

Barack Obama will not play that game.

Barack Obama is not taking any contributions from Washington lobbyists or political action committees.

Barack Obama is transforming the political process by bringing together hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans in a campaign that’s owned by no one but the people.

Will you join us by making a donation?  Can you spare $5.01, or $10.02, or $25.05 to show that you have hope for the future?  That you hope for your children to grow up in the land of the free?  That you support a candidate who believes in you?

The future is coming, and it is time to make it happen the way we want.  Please join us:


I Am So Smart, S-M-R-T

So I have been working on a project lately that has me using Google Maps. I have learned a few things while doing this. One thing I wish to share is odd, these maps do not read the letter “E” as an apartment number. It reads it as east, every time. Which is frustrating if the address is “123 Street Ave Apt E/ City, State Zip”. The other thing which is just hilarious to me, is that the map source has one street (that I know of) misspelled. The name of the street is “Whiteroe” but on the maps it is spelled “Witheroe”. Just to be certain, Jacob and I took the opportunity to cross town and find the street, sure enough on the street sign it is written “N. Whiteroe”.

Allez Cuisine!

Here’s another first: On Saturday, we did our first real paid catering gig (along with my mother and my uncle Kevin – my mother was the head chef). Marcia has worked as a professional chef before (at the Bed&Breakfast she used to manage), but this was my first time in the professional arena. It was the first time doing catering on someone else’s site for both of us. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.

Marcia, Karen, and Jacob

The event was a wedding reception with about 150 guests, with an Italian food/decor theme. The menu was a mix of traditional Italian and non-traditional Italian-inspired food. The entrees were Grilled Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo (traditional), and Inside-Out Ravioli (a non-traditional but very delicious creation of my mother’s). We also did a fruit salad, a chef’s salad, some REALLY good breadsticks, a cheese tray, and a few other tasty morsels. We did not do the wedding cake, though we did provide a chocolate fountain which was a real BLAST, as you will soon see…

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

But let’s start with the strawberries – In talking with the mother of the bride, it became apparent that the bride’s favorite treat is chocolate-dipped strawberries. It was decided that we would provide a plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries for the bride and groom to enjoy. At first, we were just going to do some simple traditional dips, but then my mother got a crazy idea – and when she gets those ideas, there’s no stopping her. She wanted to use white and dark chocolate (dark in color, not in flavor) to make half of the strawberries look like tuxedos, and then use white to make the other half like like wedding dresses. It took a little bit of [very tasty] experimentation, but when she figured out how to do it, the results were great:

The world's coolest chocolate-dipped strawberries
We offered a few of them to the pastry chef who did the cake to put them on or around the cake if he wanted, and he loved the idea. The rest went on a plate for the bride and groom to share. We also made some more plain dipped strawberries for the rest of the head table to enjoy.

Cake Flower

The pastry chef (who was a friend of the bride’s family and also a wedding guest) had his daughter with him. She was probably 6 or 7 years old. While he was putting the strawberries we gave him on the cake, I was talking to the little girl, who said “my daddy made the cake.”

“It’s pretty,” I responded, “and you can eat everything on it!”

“Not the flowers,” she said.

I went into teacher mode. “I bet you can.”


“What kind of flowers are they? Are they carnations?”


“Then you can eat them. What do you think they taste like?”

She half-shrugged, half rolled her eyes at the idiot who thinks you can eat flowers.

“They taste like pepper.”

She’d had enough. I was clearly insane. She laughed at me, said “Nuh-uh!” and scampered off.

Later, I was lucky enough to serve her her food. I asked if she wanted salt, pepper, or flowers on her pasta. Again, the “for a grown up, you’re really stupid” look.

For the record, you CAN eat carnations, and they DO taste like pepper. Just be careful when you buy them that you get ones grown without any pesticides, because pesticide not only tastes nasty, it’s not very good for you.

Chocolate Fountain of Death

About halfway through dinner, we were all serving or preparing more food, when someone came in, grabbed Kevin, and said “the chocolate fountain is exploding!” We thought that perhaps it had spilled a little, or maybe overheated and ruined the chocolate (it does happen on occasion).

No. This was pretty literal.

A piece of food had fallen into the bottom of the fountain, and worked its way into the auger that moves the chocolate from the bottom to the top. It got stuck inside the auger tube and began acting as a lifting shelf for the auger, so the auger started climbing up the tube – like it was unscrewing itself from the fountain. Once the auger got above the top of the tube, it started flinging chocolate about. To make matters worse, a few moments after that, the whole fountain started to spin about because the movement of the auger had thrown the balance off. Then the rotation caused various pieces to come apart, and very soon the whole thing had come apart, flinging chocolate all over 4 bowls of strawberries, pretzels, and cookies, a white tablecloth, and a surprised little boy.

The fastest way to clean up the mess was simply to clean the fountain, swap the tablecloth for a fresh one (luckily, no chocolate got on the floor or walls), and get things moving again quickly. Kevin put the soiled tablecloth in a freezer so it could be easily cleaned later (you can peel the cold chocolate off of the cloth and have a pretty good chance of saving the tablecloth). After things calmed down and dinner was done, we took a moment to take some pictures of the tablecloth (this is after being frozen):

Kevin and Jacob with the chocolate covered tablecloth
I wish we had gotten some pictures of the little boy who was equally chocolate covered, but he got cleaned up too quickly. Thankfully, the bride and groom and all the guests thought the whole incident was quite funny, and nobody was upset at this minor disaster. I think it’s the only thing that went wrong the whole day (which means my knife skills have improved!).

The Aftermath

In the end, we received many compliments from the guests, and the bridal party (especially the mother of the bride, who hired us) was very pleased. We were happy with a job well done, and a buffet table well-eaten:

The buffet table after the wedding
A number of people asked us if we had a catering company, or if we were available for hire. The four of us have threatened to start a catering business before, but have not actually done so. Perhaps with a little more experience, we would feel comfortable doing that. Only time will tell.

The Boldness of Some People’s Children

Yesterday we took a trip “to town.” For those of you who are wondering, I do not mean Wal-Mart, I mean Springfield. We went to Best Buy, looked around and realized that we still didn’t find anything to waste our hard earned money on, so we left. As we waited along the side walk for the rest of our group to emerge from the store, we saw this couple walk out. That is a normal occurance, however the woman was walking (or should I say waddling) funny. My first thought was that she had knee problems, as she couldn’t seem to bend her legs. She took a few more steps and suddenly it was obvious what the problem was. Under her long full skirt hem appeared a box, about the size of a DVD player box. She was in broad daylight stealing from the store. My father-in-law went in to tell the store security guy what we witnessed, and the guy wouldn’t believe him.

On the 4th of this month (a Friday) I went over to my friend Heather’s house to help her set up for a garage sale. The sale was advertised to start at 4pm. At noon we had barely set the tables up and were just beginning to bring things out of her house. Our other friends, Chris and Margaret, were there dropping things off and had their van in the driveway. At the moment Chris and Margaret were getting ready to leave, two older ladies pulled up in front of the driveway and blocked them in, got out of the car and started “garage saleing.” We told them that we didn’t have much of our stuff out and that it didn’t start till 4 anyhow, but they continued shopping. One of the things we DID have out was a mouse pad that I had been given for free 10 years ago, as a joke I priced it at “3¢ OBO” and other free things of little or no value to us. These two women took the free stuff leaving only a few things behind AND they took the 3¢ OBO mouse pad. Normally we would have waived the fee, say if they had arrived after the starting hour…. But because they came 4 hours early and blocked in our friend’s van, we made them pay the 3¢. (This gets even better.) Heather had to step in to get change for the woman; while she was inside I was in the garage holding Logan and watching the woman continue to look, had I not been out there she would have walked off with more things, she kept looking at her bag and had her hands on a photo album and looking at me to see if she could sneak it. All the while blocking Chris and Margaret in.

I just can’t believe it! And my eyes saw it!

Act well thy part

There used to be a building near Stirling Castle in Scotland, which had an inscription carved above the door “What-e’er thou art, act well thy part.” The building was eventually torn down, but the engraved stone was taken to Salt Lake City. I’ve seen it, and ever since have contemplated its meaning. The last couple of weeks I have especially been thinking about it.

As I think about it, another of my favorite philosophies comes to mind: “anything worth doing is worth doing incredibly well.”

I find it a healthy mental exercise on occasion (probably once per quarter or so) to divide my life into the “roles” that I fulfil. That is, to ask the question, “what am I?” Some of those might include being a husband, a businessman, a computer programmer, a musician, etc… When examining the individual roles, I can ask myself if I’m a “good one.” Am I a good husband? Am I a good businessman? Am I a good musician? Taking the time to figure out what it means to be “a good one,” and then planning how I can become better allows for great introspection, focus, and planning (and sometimes, I realize that I’ve taken on a role that I don’t really want or need, and having defined that, I can abandon the role).

So ask yourself, “What am I?” “Am I a good one?”

Are you a cyclist? Be a good one.

Are you a cook? Be a good one.

Are you a teacher? Be a good one.

Are you a mother or a father? Be a good one.

And so on….

Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing incredibly well. If it’s not worth doing well, than it may not be worth doing at all. We should never accept mediocrity from ourselves – we can be better.

“What-e’er thou art, act well thy part.”


It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on this blog.  Thankfully, Marcia’s picture quizzes have kept it alive while I’ve been “away.”

I haven’t really been physically absent, I’ve just been in crazy finish-the-product-and-get-it-out-the-door mode for the last 3 weeks, finishing up a new version of the software that I write.  I finally finished it last week, then had to deal with some other problems early this week, and yesterday, March 14, we finally “shipped” version 5 of our software, the best version we’ve done yet.

So, without that hovering over me and keeping me chained to my computer for 20 hours a day (yes, there were several days last week when I got about 4 hours of sleep), I finally have some time to do some other things I’ve been putting off, like reading a few new books, cleaning my desk, and blogging.

You will be hearing much more from me in the coming weeks.

Success vs. Happiness

Lately, I’ve become increasingly enamored with a woman named Kathy Sierra.  Ok, not really with her – I don’t even know her – but with her writing.  Kathy writes a blog she calls Creating Passionate Users.  She’s got one of those “let’s change the world and here’s why and here’s how” attitudes, where “the world” is “the way we do business.”

Kathy’s post today is particularly striking.  “Success” should not mean “Management” basically questions the entire model of how promotions in business work.  She points out that while businesses always want to promote their people into management positions, a lot of people (especially technical people like programmers and engineers) don’t want those jobs.  They take them because the pay and benefits are better, but they don’t necessarily involve doing the things they actually want to do.

While Kathy does discuss some of the reasons for this, I think one thing she misses is that the people running the business are the people who LIKE management-type things, so they think that promoting people along those lines is a great reward.  Like in so many other areas, they don’t realize that everyone has the same goals as them.  This could be part of the reason why this happens.

I think this is part of the reason I enjoy being self-employed.  With nearly total autonomy, I get to make sure that most of my work is things I actually want to do.   If there was a company where the defined career path was increased opportunity to do the things I want to do, and decreased necessity of doing the things I don’t want to do, I would consider working there.


Hunger of body and heart

A few weeks ago we went to a very short (just over an hour) lecture by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. The lecture was about strengthening families and was basically a short rehash of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with a specific bent towards how the principles of the 7 habits apply to families.

I have long been a fan of Dr. Covey’s work, ever since the first time I read the 7 Habits book.  The book changed my overall approach to life, and frankly I think it’s words to live by for anyone and everyone.  In other words, I have drunk the “7 Habits” kool-aid.

There was one quote from Dr. Covey that I found particularly poignant during this particular lecture.  Speaking about interpersonal communication, he said:

The deepest hunger of the human body is for air.  The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood.

The part about the hunger for air is pretty clear.  Try going without food for 5 minutes.  Easy. Done.  Try going without air for 5 minutes.

That got pretty hard after about 40 seconds, didn’t it?

It makes sense that the deepest hunger of our hearts is to be understood.  It explains why we go to such incredible lengths to try and make people see things our way.  From arguments between friends to wars between countries, many a conflict has been a result of people trying make others understand them.

It’s interesting that Dr. Covey says that the key to interpersonal communication is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  I wonder how many conflicts, from simple spats between people to major international crises, could be avoided if people tried to understand each other before making themselves understood.

In my experience, it only takes one person to practice this in order for it to work.  Two people may be talking, and both are dying to be understood.  If one of them decides to understand before being understood, a synergistic exchange of ideas, thoughts, and feelings is much more likely to happen.  It’s amazing how willing we are to listen and try to understand someone else when we know that they already understand us.

This is where we come to a mutual understanding. When both people understand each other, because both have really made that efford to understand and not just be understood, then real communication has happened and real results can be enjoyed and appreciated.