The “Ground Zero Mosque” Craziness

Yes it has been a long time since I posted anything here. It’s not that I quit caring about these issues or anything like that. Rather it has been that there has been a lot going on and more to write about than I have time for.  Which to pick?

Also, it has been frustrating watching the right simply make things up in an effort to tear our nation apart. It really made it, at times, difficult to consider making rational, reasonable statements rather than just raging at the horror of it all. Rage is not something I want to write.

Unfortunately, over the last couple days there has been a lot of news over a Islamic community center near planned near ground zero in NYC. The right wants to use this to get people worked up since the idea makes people uncomfortable because of 9/11. However, this is a clear 1st Amendment case. There is no good reason for this community center to be built right where it is.

I was planning on writing more about the case and the controversy surrounding it. It turns out there has already been a great opinion piece written on the subject:

Eugene Robinson – Republicans pander over ‘Ground Zero mosque’.

Just because Muslims seem different than mainstream America is no reason to deny them their 1st Amendment protections. It will be tragic if far-right extremism prevents this from being built; as it will show that 9/11 truly made America  a worse nation due to fear of the unknown.

Posted in politics, Religion | 2 Comments

Possible strangeness with site

I’m going to be making some changes to the hosting for this site over the next few days. So, I’m sorry if anything freaks out with RSS feeds or the like.

Posted in Brains | 4 Comments

Book Reviews

With the Now Reading widget going it got me to thinking that maybe I’d actually write a bit about the books I’m reading. Welcome to my 8th grade book report… Just kidding.

One of the things I most hate about book reviews is when people really get into plot points and details. I’m really anti-spoiler; I like discovering the story as it is presented by the author. If a book is by an author I know, often I won’t even read the dust jacket before diving right in to the story. Seriously, I just don’t want to know.

Also, this is not going to be any kind of formal literary criticism. I not going to be writing a thesis on the merits of the last book I just read and how it relates to whatever genera it comes from. I am in no way qualified to do that. Anything I write I’ll try and keep short and casual.

If I’m not writing plot summaries or serious literary criticism, what am I going to write?

  • My impressions of the book, in general terms what I liked or didn’t like about it.
  • A general overview of the premise of the book or books, as spoiler free a possible.
  • Any interesting tidbits I might have about the book or the author or whatever.
    If I think the book is worth the time to read.

Why book reviews?

Well, I read a lot, I have opinions about what I’m reading, and I think I feel like sharing. One of my biggest problems with writing on a regular basis is that I’m lacking in something to write about. I work, I go to school, I read, I watch movies, I play games, regular writing about myself is not that interesting. I suppose it could be all about me, but honestly I’m not sure I want to see the level of navel-gazing that would come out of that eventually. There will be plenty about me it is just that there will be other stuff as well. I’m sure over time there will be terrifying profile that someone could put together about me by looking at what I read.

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New Widget Added: Now Reading

So I read quite a bit. It has always been something I’ve enjoyed. When I was young, I used to stay up late into the night hiding under the blankets, reading by flashlight. Now I don’t have my parents telling me to get to sleep. Instead, I have to deal with the alarm clock (my greatest nemesis) in the morning.

I’d wanted some way of displaying what I was reading for a while. Not surprisingly there are several widgets that do just that. After playing with a few I went with Now Reading Reloaded. It pulls images from Amazon for the covers of the books and lets add notes on the books in your library or link to reviews. It is tempting to add my whole library. That, however, would be a lot of work that I really don’t see my self making time for.

This does bring up a couple things that in the effort of full-disclosure I feel should be addressed:

First off, I have no plans to try and make money off of this site. Seriously. As though that wasn’t obvious. However, the widget does let you hook up to Amazon’s referral program. So if you should happen to click through to the Amazon site and then purchase the exact item linked, and if the stars are in some sort of magical alignment, I might accidentally end up with some small amount of credit with them.

Secondly, I’m may not actually be reading the physical copy I will be linking to. I have a Nook and I really like it (that could be a whole other post). Most of my non-school reading is done on my e-reader. I keep hoping that some of the books I need for school will come in an e-book format; so far no luck there. For the most part BN and Amazon’s e-books are very closely priced. It all comes down to which reader and DRM flavor (they all kind of taste bad, just some less than others) you go with. As for physical copies, Amazon seems to have slightly better prices so I don’t mind linking to them.

There, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way I feel better about having the widget on the page.

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The Reunion (pre-reunion thoughts)

So now I’m back home for the weekend. It’s really good to be in KC; I miss this place and the people I still know here a lot. The reason for this trip is a bit unusual though. It is my 20 year high school reunion.

Honestly, I have weird, mixed feelings about the reunion itself. For the most part, I have neither seen nor spoken to nearly all of the people that will be there in something close to 20 years. There are a couple of exceptions and several of them have added me on facebook, but I have no recent connections to them.  Mostly, I like to think this is because I moved away from KC. However, I know I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people.

I didn’t have the dysfunctional high school experience that most people I currently know seem to have had. It wasn’t all super-happy-fun-times, but it wasn’t that bad either.  I spent  my high school years active and involved. I was in choir, theatre, student council, debate, mock legislature and UN, and even played sports a bit. Along with all of that I managed to skate, game, and party occasionally. I really was involved in so much that I knew pretty much everyone.

Despite this, I was in no way one of the cool kids. I was really quite certain that I was miserable about half of the time.
The thing is, I was part of a community; one I left a long time ago. Now I have an opportunity to see what happened to those people. I’m curious to find out what paths others took. I just couldn’t pass that up.

I also see this as an opportunity to reflect on what I have (and haven’t) done these last 20 years. I’m certain that my path has been far from optimal; at least it has been interesting.

So that’s why I’m at my reunion. Maybe I’ll get a chance to catch up with friends from days gone by. Maybe the whole thing will be a bust. Who knows? Either way I see the event as being a good thing by itself.

Posted in Musings | Tagged | 5 Comments

University Life, Part 1

I’m having a great time going back to school. No, it is not a full-time party or anything like that. Rather, I’m learning new stuff and confirming that a knew quite a bit already. It is a nice sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Although, keeping up with my studies while working and having some kind of life is an interesting balance of priorities.

So far my experiences with WGU have been very positive. I feel like I have made a good decision with where I’m going to school. I have to admit, I was kind or worried about how going someplace that was so non-traditional would work out. Those fears seem completely unfounded now.

The orientation class was a great introduction to all of the resources available. There is a huge collection of online libraries and training sources that I have access to. One day I might even use all of them. It is reassuring to know they are there and how to get to them.

Having a mentor from the school checking in to make sure things are going well, offering tips and guidance, and being available to answer questions has been very helpful. I’ve already talked with Ian, my mentor, more than all the advisors in my previous 4 years at university.

Studying has been nice. I read on the bus every day anyway. I read at lunch most days. I read a lot. Now I’m just reviewing my textbook for whatever I’m working on at the moment. Also, I bought a really nice lawn chair. I drag it out to the park and kick back and read. I see it as a fine way to spend a summer day.

The testing process is pretty slick. Being able to take a test at home rather than going into a testing center or a classroom somewhere is nice. How does that work? you ask. Couldn’t you just cheat? Nope. They have contracted with a service that monitors you while you are taking the test. Shortly after starting a webcam with a mic showed up in the mail. Now, when I need to take a test I do it through special software that takes over my computer screen and provides someone out on the tubes somewhere access to the camera to watch me take my test (I do feel kind of bad for those people).

Now you might wonder, can you get around this system? Maybe, but not likely. I’m pretty technically savvy and might be able to pull something off if I cared to try. However, I’d only get one chance and the risk to reward ratio doesn’t work out well in my favor. I’m not in school to game the system; I’m trying to learn. There is really no point in testing it.

Well that turned out to be more time on the Kryterion set-up than I’d planned but I think it is pretty cool. The worst thing about the whole process is that I needed to clean off my desk to get ready to take my first test.

Oh right, I passed my first test with no problems. Six credits down because law and ethics are subjects I have a decent background in already. I probably could have passed the test the first day but I wanted to do some of the readings to feel more comfortable with the subject. It isn’t as though I knew everything being taught. I knew just enough I probably could have passed with a score that I wouldn’t have been entirely happy with. I see no point in avoiding learning new things when presented with an opportunity.

Not all of the courses have a test; a fair number of the courses require a written project. Conveniently, I like to write and do quite a bit of it. Writing for work has really changed my perspective on this sort of assignment. Compared to the term papers from my first university experience they really seem to be about the same scale, maybe a bit larger. It is just that seems really short to me now. Seven page double-spaced paper just isn’t as intimidating as it might have once been. The degree does end with one major project and I’m sure that will be challenging, but I know I can get it done.

Well that’s all for now.

Posted in Musings, School | Leave a comment

Moving to Disqus for Comments

I just moved over to DISQUS for the commenting system.  Not that there is a whole lot of commenting going on over here considering how sporadically I’ve posted in the past.  I like the idea of something that links in and still allows moderation. Hit me up on twitter @sleepdepzombie if you run into issues with it.

Posted in Brains | Tagged , | 8 Comments

I'm Going Back to School?!

Yes, that’s right I’m going back to school.

When I left the University of Kansas many years ago I always thought that I’d go back to school at some point. At the time I was kind of an indifferent student; I excelled at things that I liked and did a minimal amount of work on courses that didn’t interest me. I switched schools and majors several times. Frankly, I had no idea what I wanted to do. A situation that I suspect is not entirely uncommon. At the time the decision to leave was agonizing for me because there were parts of it I really liked and parts that seemed pointless.

I was just making it up as I went along and really had no plan. I was reasonably convinced that with any of the degrees I’d worked on I’d make a fine janitor or waiter. I was equally convinced that I didn’t need a degree to prove anything considering my career prospects. With that certainty and a strong desire to stop spending money I didn’t have in the first place I left university to go out into the world and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I suspect there were other forces at play at the time but that is a subject for another post.

As left, I made a commitment to myself that I would continue learning throughout my life, regardless of what happened with my formal education. Also, I wanted to go back to school and finish up some sort of degree, once I figured out what I wanted to do. I never thought it would take this long.

I must admit I’ve never had much belief that a diploma or certificate actually denoted much outside of some specialized fields. I have known idiots that looked great on paper and geniuses that didn’t. Unfortunately, society in general doesn’t seem to subscribe to this same point of view. HR people and pointy-haired bosses seem to like degrees because they denote that a person has a predictable baseline of knowledge about something (even if they don’t really). Don’t get me wrong there are some professions that really need degrees; I want to know that my doctor has an excellent education. On the other hand, the list of jobs that require a degree simply to make an HR person’s life easier is pretty ridiculous.

I’ve looked at going back to school off and on over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the correct combination of time, money, and a stable living arrangement to make it happen.

Now I’m in my late 30’s and I’m going back to school. It seems kind of crazy to me. I’m not quitting my job or anything like that. I’ll be working full time and taking classes online. I hope that I can make it all work out; it is going to be an interesting experience. The program I am in enrolled in is non-traditional since it is entirely online and based around demonstrating knowledge rather spending a lot of time in a classroom. I expect this will work out well for me as I am studying for a degree in the field I already work in.

So what exactly am I taking?

I’ve enrolled in the Business – IT Management program at Western Governors University. Currently, I’m working as a documentation project manager and a change manager with some technical duties thrown in to keep everything interesting. I see myself staying in this field for a long time still so I’ve decided it is time to formalize what I know and fill in some of the gaps left from my self-directed training.

The way this program seems structured I expect do do a lot of reading and a fair bit or writing. I think I’ll do fine.

This probably isn’t the degree I would have pursued if I were independently wealthy or taking classes for fun. Although, it is a degree that interests me. Certainly, this is not anything I ever thought about when I was at university the first go around (not that there were IT Management degrees back then). The lack of whimsy involved in this course does make me a bit sad. However, it is imminently practical.

I now have a plan and an opportunity to make it happen. I’m excited to get started and I really hope it goes well.

I’ll be sure to update with my experiences.

Posted in Musings, School | Leave a comment

My Poor Blog

Thankfully there is twitter to note that I am still alive once in a while. There are a lot of things going on and I haven’t been taking much time to write for myself. I’m not sure how much that will actually change as life is becoming more busy. However, I will be spending a lot of time in front of a computer not at work so one can hope.

Details in the next few days…

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Phone Writing

In a new attempt to get myself writing again I have added an application to my phone allowing me to make posts.

I regularly think to myself that it would be great to write something if only I was at my computer. Well that is no longer a limitation. I always have my phone with me. If the touch screen keyboard doesn’t drive me crazy this might just work.

Sure, there are shorter format posting methods like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, my self imposed content restrictions on Facebook and the size limit of Twitter make these less than ideal for a lot of things. Hopefully, this will provide what I’m missing.

Currently I’m using wpToGo on my Android phone. I like the app quite a bit as it is and it looks like the developer is planning on adding several more features. This should work out well.

Quick edit to add: The app wpToGo has become the official WordPress app. The correct app to look for in the market is just called WordPress now.

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