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Fahrenheit 9/11 and Who Should We Elect President

Just recently, Yoon and I went to see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. It’s the documentary by a very controversial producer about the events leading up to September 11, 2001, the day of the worst terrorist attack in US history; the Bush Administration’s response to the events on that day; and how they led to the war in Iraq. I would highly recommend the movie. Granted, the movie reflects the opinion of Michael Moore, but it is his right as a filmmaker to do that provided the movie is based on the facts as they exist—and from everything I've read/seen/heard in the media and on my own, the facts are there and not under dispute. (In the interest of full-disclosure, I am a registered Democrat and voted for Al Gore in 2000.)

Kuro5hin.org had a very good article summing up the efforts of the Clinton and Bush administrations in the war on terror up until October 2001. I've included the summary below.

****************************** excerpt begins ******************************

There will, of course, always be those who close their eyes to inconvenient facts, but even for these unfortunate people a day will come when the evidence becomes too much of a burden for their conscience to ignore. For the good of us all let us hope their desire to act upon the truth outweighs their desire to defend those whom they believe are their allies.

****************************** end of excerpt ******************************

Now, I don't know what a second Bush Administration would bring, but I do know that the first George W. Bush Administration has had the following results:

The other issue brought up by the movie is whether George W. Bush should even be president. The movie makes several key points about the 2000 election. There were some very strange coincidences between the people in charge of those critical Florida votes and George W. Bush. If these irregularities, especially the refusal to do a recount of the actual votes, had happened in any third world country with the US and UN monitoring the elections— the elections would not be declared free and fair. It is strange that in the country with the oldest continuous democratic government basic democratic rights like assuring one vote per person should be so questionable.

The Case Against George W. Bush

This article was taken from the Esquire.com website. I found it through Tim Bray’s most excellent weblog. It is an eloquent and concise summary of what is wrong with George W. Bush and his administration. As Tim says, "you can pretty well skip over all the other anti-Bush rhetoric that’s apt to occupy the airwaves this year, because it’s all neatly packaged up here in one place."

By Ron Reagan

It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn't hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, "but not this time." There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the "Orwellian language" flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son’s misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people’s eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.

Oddly, even my father’s funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans' eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush’s advantage for the fall election. The familiar "Heir to Reagan" puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it’s no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood—a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.

The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can't be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn't quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That’s so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.

Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It’s one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that’s not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy’s critique of George W. Bush.

THE MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLES OF distortion and misdirection—which the administration even now cannot bring itself to repudiate—involve our putative "War on Terror" and our subsequent foray into Iraq.

During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bush pledged a more "humble" foreign policy. "I would take the use of force very seriously," he said. "I would be guarded in my approach." Other countries would resent us "if we're an arrogant nation." He sniffed at the notion of "nation building." "Our military is meant to fight and win wars. . . . And when it gets overextended, morale drops." International cooperation and consensus building would be the cornerstone of a Bush administration’s approach to the larger world. Given candidate Bush’s remarks, it was hard to imagine him, as president, flipping a stiff middle finger at the world and charging off adventuring in the Middle East.

But didn't 9/11 reshuffle the deck, changing everything? Didn't Mr. Bush, on September 12, 2001, awaken to the fresh realization that bad guys in charge of Islamic nations constitute an entirely new and grave threat to us and have to be ruthlessly confronted lest they threaten the American homeland again? Wasn't Saddam Hussein rushed to the front of the line because he was complicit with the hijackers and in some measure responsible for the atrocities in Washington, D. C., and at the tip of Manhattan?

Well, no.

As Bush’s former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, and his onetime "terror czar," Richard A. Clarke, have made clear, the president, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, was contemplating action against Iraq from day one. "From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out," O'Neill said. All they needed was an excuse. Clarke got the same impression from within the White House. Afghanistan had to be dealt with first; that’s where the actual perpetrators were, after all. But the Taliban was a mere appetizer; Saddam was the entrée. (Or who knows? The soup course?) It was simply a matter of convincing the American public (and our representatives) that war was justified.

The real—but elusive—prime mover behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was quickly relegated to a back burner (a staff member at Fox News—the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House—told me a year ago that mere mention of bin Laden’s name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large) while Saddam’s Iraq became International Enemy Number One. Just like that, a country whose economy had been reduced to shambles by international sanctions, whose military was less than half the size it had been when the U. S. Army rolled over it during the first Gulf war, that had extensive no-flight zones imposed on it in the north and south as well as constant aerial and satellite surveillance, and whose lethal weapons and capacity to produce such weapons had been destroyed or seriously degraded by UN inspection teams became, in Mr. Bush’s words, "a threat of unique urgency" to the most powerful nation on earth.

Fanciful but terrifying scenarios were introduced: Unmanned aircraft, drones, had been built for missions targeting the U. S., Bush told the nation. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice deadpanned to CNN. And, Bush maintained, "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." We "know" Iraq possesses such weapons, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney assured us. We even "know" where they are hidden. After several months of this mumbo jumbo, 70 percent of Americans had embraced the fantasy that Saddam destroyed the World Trade Center.

ALL THESE ASSERTIONS have proved to be baseless and, we've since discovered, were regarded with skepticism by experts at the time they were made. But contrary opinions were derided, ignored, or covered up in the rush to war. Even as of this writing, Dick Cheney clings to his mad assertion that Saddam was somehow at the nexus of a worldwide terror network.

And then there was Abu Ghraib. Our "war president" may have been justified in his assumption that Americans are a warrior people. He pushed the envelope in thinking we'd be content as an occupying power, but he was sadly mistaken if he thought that ordinary Americans would tolerate an image of themselves as torturers. To be fair, the torture was meant to be secret. So were the memos justifying such treatment that had floated around the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department for more than a year before the first photos came to light. The neocons no doubt appreciate that few of us have the stones to practice the New Warfare. Could you slip a pair of women’s panties over the head of a naked, cowering stranger while forcing him to masturbate? What would you say while sodomizing him with a toilet plunger? Is keeping someone awake till he hallucinates inhumane treatment or merely "sleep management"?

Most of us know the answers to these questions, so it was incumbent upon the administration to pretend that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, not policy. Investigations, we were assured, were already under way; relevant bureaucracies would offer unstinting cooperation; the handful of miscreants would be sternly disciplined. After all, they didn't "represent the best of what America’s all about." As anyone who'd watched the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission could have predicted, what followed was the usual administration strategy of stonewalling, obstruction, and obfuscation. The appointment of investigators was stalled; documents were withheld, including the full report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army’s primary investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A favorite moment for many featured John McCain growing apoplectic as Donald Rumsfeld and an entire tableful of army brass proved unable to answer the simple question Who was in charge at Abu Ghraib?

The Bush administration no doubt had its real reasons for invading and occupying Iraq. They've simply chosen not to share them with the American public. They sought justification for ignoring the Geneva Convention and other statutes prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but were loath to acknowledge as much. They may have ideas worth discussing, but they don't welcome the rest of us in the conversation. They don't trust us because they don't dare expose their true agendas to the light of day. There is a surreal quality to all this: Occupation is liberation; Iraq is sovereign, but we're in control; Saddam is in Iraqi custody, but we've got him; we'll get out as soon as an elected Iraqi government asks us, but we'll be there for years to come. Which is what we counted on in the first place, only with rose petals and easy coochie.

This Möbius reality finds its domestic analogue in the perversely cynical "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" sloganeering at Bush’s EPA and in the administration’s irresponsible tax cutting and other fiscal shenanigans. But the Bush administration has always worn strangely tinted shades, and you wonder to what extent Mr. Bush himself lives in a world of his own imagining.

And chances are your America and George W. Bush’s America are not the same place. If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world. Bush, who has always managed to fail upwards in his various careers, has never had a job the way you have a job—where not showing up one morning gets you fired, costing you your health benefits. He may find it difficult to relate personally to any of the nearly two million citizens who've lost their jobs under his administration, the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to post a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush has never had to worry that he couldn't afford the best available health care for his children. For him, forty-three million people without health insurance may be no more than a politically inconvenient abstraction. When Mr. Bush talks about the economy, he is not talking about your economy. His economy is filled with pals called Kenny-boy who fly around in their own airplanes. In Bush’s economy, his world, friends relocate offshore to avoid paying taxes. Taxes are for chumps like you. You are not a friend. You're the help. When the party Mr. Bush is hosting in his world ends, you'll be left picking shrimp toast out of the carpet.

ALL ADMINISTRATIONS WILL DISSEMBLE, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don't have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one’s long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.

Mr. Bush’s tendency to meander beyond the bounds of truth was evident during the 2000 campaign but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. His untruths simply didn't fit the agreed-upon narrative. While generally acknowledged to be lacking in experience, depth, and other qualifications typically considered useful in a leader of the free world, Bush was portrayed as a decent fellow nonetheless, one whose straightforwardness was a given. None of that "what the meaning of is is" business for him. And, God knows, no furtive, taxpayer-funded fellatio sessions with the interns. Al Gore, on the other hand, was depicted as a dubious self-reinventor, stained like a certain blue dress by Bill Clinton’s prurient transgressions. He would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements—"I invented the Internet"—that he never made in the first place. All this left the coast pretty clear for Bush.

Scenario typical of the 2000 campaign: While debating Al Gore, Bush tells two obvious—if not exactly earth-shattering—lies and is not challenged. First, he claims to have supported a patient’s bill of rights while governor of Texas. This is untrue. He, in fact, vigorously resisted such a measure, only reluctantly bowing to political reality and allowing it to become law without his signature. Second, he announces that Gore has outspent him during the campaign. The opposite is true: Bush has outspent Gore. These misstatements are briefly acknowledged in major press outlets, which then quickly return to the more germane issues of Gore’s pancake makeup and whether a certain feminist author has counseled him to be more of an "alpha male."

Having gotten away with such witless falsities, perhaps Mr. Bush and his team felt somehow above day-to-day truth. In any case, once ensconced in the White House, they picked up where they left off.

IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH and confusion of 9/11, Bush, who on that day was in Sarasota, Florida, conducting an emergency reading of "The Pet Goat," was whisked off to Nebraska aboard Air Force One. While this may have been entirely sensible under the chaotic circumstances—for all anyone knew at the time, Washington might still have been under attack—the appearance was, shall we say, less than gallant. So a story was concocted: There had been a threat to Air Force One that necessitated the evasive maneuver. Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, cited "specific" and "credible" evidence to that effect. The story quickly unraveled. In truth, there was no such threat.

Then there was Bush’s now infamous photo-op landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and his subsequent speech in front of a large banner emblazoned MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The banner, which loomed in the background as Bush addressed the crew, became problematic as it grew clear that the mission in Iraq—whatever that may have been—was far from accomplished. "Major combat operations," as Bush put it, may have technically ended, but young Americans were still dying almost daily. So the White House dealt with the questionable banner in a manner befitting a president pledged to "responsibility and accountability": It blamed the sailors. No surprise, a bit of digging by journalists revealed the banner and its premature triumphalism to be the work of the White House communications office.

More serious by an order of magnitude was the administration’s dishonesty concerning pre-9/11 terror warnings. As questions first arose about the country’s lack of preparedness in the face of terrorist assault, Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to the pundit arenas to assure the nation that "no one could have imagined terrorists using aircraft as weapons." In fact, terrorism experts had warned repeatedly of just such a calamity. In June 2001, CIA director George Tenet sent Rice an intelligence report warning that "it is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." Two intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 specifically connected Al Qaeda to the imminent danger of hijacked planes being used as weapons. According to The New York Times, after the second of these briefings, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States," was delivered to the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Bush "broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing." This was the briefing Dr. Rice dismissed as "historical" in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

What’s odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush’s White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.

But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has "never fully inhabited" the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can't speak but because he doesn't bother to think.

GEORGE W. BUSH PROMISED to "change the tone in Washington" and ran for office as a moderate, a "compassionate conservative," in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a "base" that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist’s phrase, "drown it in the bathtub." That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them—"partial birth" abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It’s not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it’s unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush’s former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, "What you've got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm."

This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses?

If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term.

UNDERSTANDABLY, SOME SUPPORTERS of Mr. Bush’s will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I've made, has already discerned "jealousy" on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfully—once during my father’s presidency and once during my father’s funeral. I'll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he’s somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don't look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation’s history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don't trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?

Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government. We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.

Shortie—A New Family Member

Click
    to see large picture!We've got a new family member. His name is Shortie Lee. He is a Chihuahua-mix that Yoon and I adopted from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. They said he was a stray that was picked up about a month ago. He’s two to three years old according to the vet. We've decided that his birthday is July 20—the day we brought him home.

We don't think he is a pure Chihuahua as he has pretty long legs for a Chihuahua. He’s a reddish-brown on top, lightening to a cream on his belly and legs. His snout is fairly long and pointy and black at the tip. When he sits up, with his very pointy ears perked up, he looks like a miniature fox. As dogs go, he’s a pretty small one— only 4.1 pounds— but he’s a bit on the skinny side according to the vet. When he’s out for a walk, with his tail curled up over his back, he looks like a mini-Jindo. (A Jindo is a Korean dog that weighs about 40 pounds.)

We just found out today that Shortie can bark...not that he does very often, but he can. Until today, we had never heard him bark, or make any noise for that matter. He doesn't seem to have most of the annoying little dog behaviors from what we've seen...but we've only had him a week-and-a-half, so we'll have to see what happens. His favorite thing to do is to follow Yoon around the house.

Making Music

I am happy to announce that my friend Jee Yoon Choi took first place in the 2004 Elizabeth Elftman Organ Competition. This prestigious national competition is held annually in San Marino, California, at the San Marino Community Church. The actual competition for the two finalists was held on March 13, 2004. The competition was judged by Richard Unfried, Gary Toops, and Janet Keulen Thorson.

The two finalists, Andrew Peters and Jee Yoon Choi, also played in a recital concert was on Sunday, March 14, 2004.

I'm really happy about Jee Yoon’s win, as I helped her with recording the CD for her entry for this competition. It was one of the things I did on my year-end holiday trip to visit my family. This photo of Jee Yoon is one I took for her to send to the Elftman competition, after she found out she was a finalist. It was taken at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, where they have recently installed a new organ console.

Happy Trails

Click to see large picture!Friday— I spent most of the day helping Brian get boxes from the storage unit to the house. It took us three trips to get everything moved back to the house. We also made a trip to Goodwill— since Brian and Katy weren't going to take everything, someone might as well get some use out of it.

Saturday— Brian, Katy and a select crew spent most of the day packing boxes— getting things ready to put in the moving truck. Sunday— the truck arrived, and the day was busy. I spent most of the day packing boxes and loading them into the back of a tractor trailer. It was moving day for the Howes. All the packing, which has been going on for weeks, finally got to Brian (as you can see in this photo of him in the back of the moving truck). It was a pretty full crew—Felipé, Sean, Joel, Larry, Brian, Charlotte, Katy, Beth, Brian, Cara (as seen in photo below), Brian, Laurie, Avi, and me (not shown).

Click to see large picture!The truck showed up at about 10:00 this morning and the fun began. I got to the house around 11:15 and got right to work. We had to empty the house of everything that was going to California. We had shelves to take down, furniture to disassemble, and boxes to pack. There was more to pack than when the Howes moved in— Charlotte hadn't been born when they moved in— let me tell you a baby really adds to the stuff a family needs to have around.

Well, we were pretty much done by 6:15 and closed up the trailer, helped the driver back down the street, and he headed off for parts west. It should take about a week or so for the truck to show up in California. Brian, Katy, Charlotte and Rexie, the cat, (the one pet left on the East Coast) head west tomorrow. Happy trails to four of my adopted family and a safe flight.

The Paradox of Our Time

I recently received an e-mail from one person I consider family. It was attributed to George Carlin in the e-mail, but apparently was really written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, and published in a 1995 work titled, Words Aptly Spoken. (My thanks to Katy Howe for the heads up and the link above).

The Paradox of Our Age

"We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results. We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom and lie too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not inner space; we've done larger things, but not better things; we've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we've split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less; we make faster planes, but longer lines; we learned to rush, but not to wait; we have more weapons, but less peace; higher incomes, but lower morals; more parties, but less fun; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; drive smaller cars that have bigger problems; build larger factories that produce less. We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, but short character; steep in profits, but shallow relationships. These are times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; higher postage, but slower mail; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorces; these are times of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, cartridge living, thow-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer, to prevent, quiet or kill. It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stock room. Indeed, these are the times!"

Life is short and precious. Gee and David taught me that. We should spend our time letting the people we care about know that they are important to us.

Go West, Young Man

Click to see large picture!I got good news and bad news the other day... I found out that my friend Brian, his wife Katy and daughter Charlotte are moving back to sunny California. I'm very happy for him and his family since it means they'll be closer to Brian’s mom Judy and Katy’s dad Alan. Most of their family is on the west coast, or is going to be on the west coast shortly. Unfortunately, it means that one of my best friends, the one I adopted to be the big brother I never had as a kid, is going to be more than a ten-minute drive away.

I'm not surprised by this move. Brian has been talking about moving back to California for the last few years, and now he’s got a great job and the chance to be back where he belongs. He is very much a Southern California boy. If you want to know what Brian is kind of like, rent Finding Nemo and look at Crush the sea turtle. I've been invited out to visit, and will have to go out after their second daughter is born later this year.

The way Brian and I met is actually something that makes some people shake their heads. Back in the summer of 1999, just about the time I met Gee, Brian ended up temping at Reuters for a day. He and I worked with each other for about five hours, but we really hit it off. So, we kept in touch and became really good friends. In the time I've known Brian and his family— he’s been a groomsman at my wedding, he wrote a poem for my wedding, been by my side when Gee was dying. I was one of the first people he called when his father died. I've helped him paint the house they bought, helped put in a brick patio and walkway, build a retaining wall. I've spent holidays with his family, he’s been up to Boston to stay with mine. I'm not really worried that the distance will hurt a friendship built on such things.

He’s told me I should move to California... I've told him that California is a wonderful state to visit, but I like my furniture to stay where I put it. Virginia is my home now. As I used to tell my twin, "When California slides into the ocean, you can come stay with me." Not that I actually think that would happen... but you never know. So, it looks like I'll be going out to sunny southern California for my vacations to see Brian, Katy, Charlotte and daughter #2, do some home improvement projects and have Brian’s good cooking.

Fender Benders and Dealing with Insurance Companies

Click to see large picture!Well, I'm on another trip up to visit my nephews, Nicholas and Max, in Boston. Here are a few photos of Yoon playing with Max. I've also been working for a few people in the Boston area, working on e-commerce web sites, and a few other things. It’s nice to have a good excuse to spend time with my nephews, while they're still little. It’s hard to believe that Max is already one year old and that Nicholas will be three soon. In fact, he and my friend Brian have the same birthday in early April— that’s probably one of the reasons Brian spoils Nicholas when he’s up visiting my family.

While I was up in Boston, I went to help a damsel in distress. Yoon was in a minor car accident. She’s originally from Korea and had never had to deal with our lovely insurance company system. So, she called me and I went with her to the insurance adjustor, and got her car over to body shop to get it fixed. The body shop we left her car at is a pretty good one, one I've used before... thankfully, not in a long time. Stadium Autobody is definitely one of the better ones I've ever dealt with.

Click to see large picture!I don't have any experience with the way cars are insured outside of what we have here in the United States. Because of this, I can't say whether our system is better worse or just different from the way it is done in other countries. I would think that for a relative newcomer to the United States, our insurance system is probably both strange and confusing. Driving in Boston probably doesn't make it any easier— especially since Boston drivers are among the worst in the world.

Click
    to see large picture!Of course, her insurance adjuster’s office would be in Boston... and you have to go to them. I like my insurance company since their insurance adjuster comes to your house or office. So, off to Boston we went... me leading the way in my truck and Yoon following in her car. We got there a bit late for the appointment... but he was able to look at her car and make an estimate because the damage wasn't too extensive. We then took her car over to Stadium Autobody, which was a short distance down the street and left it there for them to repair. As I said, I've used them before and they're quite good from what I remember.

We got in my truck and went back to the house to wait for the appraisal to be faxed over. I downloaded the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Accident Report form. It’s nice that most state agencies publish forms as PDF files on the internet... I had her fill out the forms and made three copies— one for her to keep and one for the local police, her insurance company, and the state government. The appraisal finally arrived and we faxed it off to Stadium and they said they'd start work on her car. Hopefully, her car should be back on Monday.

January 24, 2004— Celebrating 20 Years of Macintosh

It was 20 years ago today that Apple started selling the Macintosh. The original Macintosh was equipped with a 9-inch monitor, a 400K 3-1/2 inch floppy drive, and 128K of RAM. It ran a new operating system that featured a mouse and the first commercially successful graphic user interface. In September, Apple released the second Macintosh model. This model was equipped with 512K of RAM, and was known as the Fat Mac. This machine had enough RAM to be capable of running complex desktop publishing software that was being developed for the new operating system and computers.

All the Macintosh really needed now was a "killer app." One more thing needed to happen before the "killer app" came to being. The important thing that needed to happen was the release of Apple’s LaserWriter. In March of 1985, Apple released the LaserWriter. This was one of the first two commercially successful laser printers. Unlike the Hewlett Packard LaserJet, the Apple LaserWriter was designed around a new graphic description language called PostScript. Adobe PostScript allowed very complex graphics to be printed with great detail.

An important part of the breakthrough for the "killer app" is the way the Macintosh communicated with the LaserWriter. The Macintoshes could be joined together in a network using a serial port-based protocol, called AppleTalk. The LaserWriter could be shared among a group of Macintoshes as it connected to the group using AppleTalk. AppleTalk networking was simple to setup, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Best of all, it could be used with every Macintosh sold. This also meant that the expensive laser printer could be shared among a group of Macintosh computers.

This set the stage for the Macintosh’s "killer app"—Aldus PageMaker. I was fortunate enough to be involved with Macintoshes early in their development, and I was a beta-tester on Aldus PageMaker and many of the other early desktop publishing applications. Desktop publishing became an integral part of the Macintosh world— people were now able to design books, brochures, ads, posters, and other printed materials with little of the difficulty of the traditional design methods. This quickly became one of the central roles of the Mac. Other important, groundbreaking applications soon followed— Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Aldus FreeHand, FullWrite Professional, MacDraft, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Multiplan, Quark XPress, and others.

Ironically, it was the Macintosh that helped Microsoft become a predominant force in software. Microsoft Word and Multiplan (the predecessor to Excel) became important business applications on the Macintosh and were crucial to Microsoft’s later success with Windows 3.1. Microsoft Windows version 1.0 had just been release on the IBM PC platform but was not widely used as it was extremely unstable and the interface needed refining. Microsoft Windows didn't gain wide acceptance until 1990, with the release of Windows 3.1. Many of the important applications that drove acceptance of Windows 3.1 were versions of applications originally developed for the Macintosh, like Multiplan and Word.

Today, the Macintosh represents about 5% of the personal computer market. Although, this seems like a small segment of the market, I would suggest that it might be a very important segment of the market. Many of the Windows-based machines that make up 95% of the personal computer market are really more like office equipment than tools for creativity— essentially replacements for the formerly ubiquitous IBM Selectric typewriters. Macintoshes seem to be the computer of choice for people who create content. A good example of this is Jonathan Caouette, a filmmaker premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week. His film, Tarnation, was created on an iMac, using iMovie, one of Apple’s iLife application suite.

Apple, and the Macintosh brand, have also led personal computing in terms of innovation and expanding the capabilities of what the user can do. The iLife application suite contains programs for working with music, photos, and video. iPhoto has become essentially the standard for ease of use in digital photography. iTunes and the iTunes Music Store have become the standard for digital music— with over 30 million songs downloaded in less than a year and 70% of the digital music market. iMovie and iDVD allow a Mac user to easily create refined videos that play in standard DVD players. The newest application in the iLife suite, GarageBand, is designed to allow Mac users to create original music recordings.

Apple’s iPod, although among the more expensive MP3 players, has managed to hold three of the top 10 places in terms of popularity. The recent introduction of the iPod Mini should boost their predominance in the market further. Apple’s recent deal with Hewlett Packard should also help. Microsoft has complained that the deal between Apple and HP is bad for the digital music industry and will hurt competitiveness. This is particularly ironic, given Microsoft’s anti-competitive and monopolistic practices. Microsoft has good reason to be worried as HP is one of the largest PC vendors, and their joint venture with Apple greatly increases the chance of Apple dominating the digital music market.

Apple also seems to be extending their reach into the enterprise— with the introduction of the G5 XServe and XServe RAID array. The G5 XServe is one of the most cost-effective 1U servers available today. The XServe RAID array is one of the most inexpensive multi-terabyte arrays. Another major success for Apple is the G5-based "Big Mac" supercomputing array at Virginia Tech. It is currently ranked as the third fastest supercomputing cluster in the world, but cost an order of magnitude less than the other clusters.

I truly hope that Apple continues to drive innovation in the personal computer industry, as all consumers will benefit from continued innovation, whether they use Wintel or Macintosh computers. I am, and have been a Macintosh enthusiast since their introduction 20 years ago. I hope that Apple continues to push the envelope and continues to simplify our digital lives— allowing us to integrate music, photography and video with the Internet. I also hope that Apple continues their push into the enterprise markets by developing a 4U XServe with 4 or 8 G5 microprocessors. Apple has built Macintosh OS X with an emphasis on efficiency, security, open standard compatibility, and stability. I hope that Microsoft, or its successor, will take their cue from the standards Apple has set. If this happens, we will all benefit from the increased security and fewer viruses that will be the inevitable result.

Discriminating the Truth

Apparently, when I wrote my last story, it resulted in a response I hadn't expected. Some of my friends who still work at Reuters called me to tell me that my website had made a splash. Some people at Reuters saw it as the act of a bitter person. I'm actually very glad to be out of the hostile environment that Reuters had become— the level of cronyism and the undercurrents of discrimination are not something I care to deal with again. The real reason that I posted the story is I felt the truth must be told. From what I've been told by several people— Reuters required them to sign a "gag order" as a part of being able to receive their severance packages. I found this to be somewhat disturbing. Here are some of the other reasons I find the behavior of Reuters so disturbing.

First, Reuters is a company that says "Our information is trusted and drives decision making across the globe. We have a reputation for speed, accuracy and freedom from bias." This quote is taken from the Reuters web site. Second, the editorial division of Reuters states, "Reuters news operations are based on the company’s Trust Principles which stipulate that the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters must be upheld at all times. Reuters has strict policies in place to ensure adherence to these principles." This quote is also taken from the Reuters web site.

Apparently, the freedom from bias and need for integrity is only true outside of the Reuters culture itself. If Reuters really felt that integrity was so important, the Editorial Compliance group of Reuters should have found that Reuters was in violation of software licensing for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2002 World Cup Soccer games in Korea and Japan. Instead, the investigation found that since "none of the photojournalists" had used the software, and the software had been deleted from the computers, there was no license violation. There are two problems with that conclusion. First, the software license agreement in question doesn't require that the software be used— just that it be installed. Second, I also know that Reuter journalists used the software in question, as I was there— and in some cases I helped them use it. Nothing happened to the person who ordered the software be installed without licensing. Companies in similar software license non-compliance have been exposed to several million dollars worth of liability.

If Reuters really had a corporate culture where integrity and freedom from bias was important— Editorial HR personnel wouldn't have gone out for drinks with a department head— while investigating their department for allegations of discriminatory behavior against minorities and women in Salt Lake City. The HR department later found that the allegations of discrimination were "unfounded." Apparently, even the appearance of an unbiased investigation wasn't necessary.

My experience has shown me that the underlying corporate culture at Reuters, results-wise, is hardly distinguishable from overt discrimination against minorities, women and people with disabilities.The corporate culture there also seems to promote cronyism— which protects favored employees from the consequences of their own incompetence. I must wonder— if Reuters truly prides itself on its integrity and freedom from bias— why does it continue to allow such behavior within the company? If such biases exist in the corporate culture— how are these biases affecting the quality and integrity of Reuters as a company? My personal experience with the journalists, editors and photographers of Reuters has been exceptional— most are among some of the best and brightest people I've had the pleasure of working with. It is not the journalists, editors, or photographers that I take issue with— but the management of Reuters America’s Editorial group and the Reuters America company as a whole.

The Reuters subsidiary, Radianz (51% Reuters, 49% Equant ownership), has had a class action lawsuit filed against it, and a large number of the Radianz employees and management are former Reuters employees who transferred to Radianz when the joint venture with Equant was founded in June 2000. How serious are the underlying problems, that a lawsuit was the result? The internal mechanisms of the company must have failed seriously if a lawsuit was the only possible remedy for the complainants in the suit.

Reuters has apparently made the effort to make sure that most of its former employees cannot discuss the culture and situation at the company without suffering for it financially. I am not sure whether a "gag order" like the one Reuters has used is legal, as it may be a furtherance of prior discriminatory behavior in some cases— but, I know that it is extremely questionable from an ethical viewpoint. Some states have enacted laws to prevent employers from "gagging" their employees about discussing the corporate work environment. The use of such tactics by Reuters, in my opinion, is something that leaves the management of Reuters among the more morally questionable.

A New Year— New Beginnings

The New Year has begun. The new year brings new opportunities and changes. I am looking forward to see what changes in technology this new year brings.

The past year had brought many changes into my life. For me, one of the best changes was the birth of my second nephew, Max, the day after Gee’s birthday. Most of my family thought I was crazy for predicting a Valentine’s Day birth for him as he wasn't due until mid-March. I knew he'd be early and predicted a Valentine’s Day birth for him... hoping that he'd be born on Gee’s birthday, but he was a day late.

No-ReutersAnother of the big changes in my life was my leaving Reuters. I moved to Washington, D.C., a little over six years ago to join the IT staff at Reuters. My time there was challenging, rewarding, but ultimately disappointing. Initially, working there was very exciting... the team I was a part of was responsible for major changes in the way Reuters news was being produced. I was also responsible for a large number of the special events— such as the NATO 50th Anniversary Summit, the Annual IMF meetings, the Third Annual WTO Ministerial Conference (aka the Battle for Seattle), and other news events— setting up a remote newsroom and supporting the journalists and photographers covering the event.

My time at Reuters also brought me to many events I probably would never have experienced otherwise. The 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and the NATO 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C. are good examples of this. I found that my background in photography and journalism helped me while working with the journalists and photographers— I could speak their "language"— I understood how their ability to do their work often depended on what the IT staff did.

The disappointing parts of working at Reuters are inter-related. The first was the highly-bigoted attitude shown by the management within the editorial portion of the company. There are many people I care about— friends and co-workers— who still work there, but there are serious problems within the corporate culture there. While there is no blatant discrimination visible— there are subtle undercurrents of discrimination. As one of my friends said, "Racism doesn't have to be blatant to be present." I was told the head of Editorial HR once said, "well then, we got one of each, didn't we..." or something to that effect when asked about the then recent layoffs of a blind man, a black man, a gay man, two black women and a Hispanic woman. (In fact, a Reuters-owned company, Radianz, was involved in a racial discrimination suit last summer.)

The second disappointing part of working there was the complete lack of corporate ethics. I guess that’s partly to be expected as the lack of ethics allows the bigoted behaviors to persist—and the bigoted behaviors encourage the lack of ethics in other areas— the two things essentially feed each other. Many times— the issues that were brought to the attention of management were often just indicators of a greater underlying problem. Every time an issue came up— it was quietly swept under the rug. Incompetence by favored employees was routinely covered-up, while many hard-working employees were given unfair or unfavorable reviews. Even the in-house attorneys, who were supposed to oversee ethical complaints or compliance issues, seemed to take no interest in truly finding out what actually happened.

While I have many good memories of my time at Reuters, I still can't help but think that the company would be much better served if the people who worked there were rewarded on their merits— not by whose favor they had, the accent they speak with, or the color of their skin. There are many good people at the company, and I wish them well. Unfortunately, Reuters also has many people, who are examples of the worst that humanity can be— selfish, racist, bigoted and greedy.

I have spent much of this past year working as a consultant. While being a consultant has many benefits, I don't think that this is the right place for me to be at this point in my life. I am hoping to find a full-time position in the New Year.

One of my good friends is starting a new law firm with a friend of hers. I've volunteered to help them get up on their feet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them both. I think they'll do well, but keeping my fingers crossed can't hurt.

I hope the New Year brings prosperity, health, and happiness to you and your families.

Christmas Wishes

Three years ago, I had but a single wish for Christmas. It was Christmas 2000— I had just gotten married the month before— soon a new millennium would start. The wish I asked for that year, was the same one I had asked for a few weeks earlier— for my birthday— and was the one I had asked for every night in my prayers for the previous eight months and would ask for over the next six months— that if God couldn't cure Gee, that he at least give us some more time together. You might ask why I'm writing this— three years later— I would come back to this most difficult time and impossible wish.

Last night, I realized, in a strange way, my prayers were answered— just not in the way I really had been hoping for. The realization came to me while I was sorting through some music CDs that I had come across. It was the case of CDs that I had selected for our trip to Seattle over four years ago. The case of 24 CDs were most of the CDs I owned at the time— a minute fraction of what Gee had. My wife, a true music fanatic, believed in having a selection of music for any occasion— her typical weekend selection was carried in a fat 72-CD case— almost double my entire collection.

There was one CD in the case that wasn't from the trip—Diamond Rio’s One More Day — stacked on top of Jewel’s Pieces of You CD. Pieces of You was about the only CD that Gee and I had both selected for the trip. The Diamond Rio CD is unusual in several ways— it is a country music CD, not my favorite genre of music; the artist and album are fairly recent, Gee often called my musical selection "petrified rock" as most of the artists were dead, retired or otherwise dinosaurs; and it is the only CD I had bought since Gee died. I knew why I had bought it— the title track, One More Day— almost perfectly expressed how I feel. I've included the lyrics here.

Last night I had a crazy dream
A wish was granted just for me,
It could be for anything
I didn't ask for money
Or a mansion in Malibu
I simply wished, for one more day with you

{Chorus}

One more day
One more time
One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still, for one more day with you

First thing I'd do, is pray for time to crawl
Then I'd unplug the telephone
And keep the tv off
I'd hold you every second
Say a million I love you’s
That’s what I'd do. With one more day with you

Well, on to the realization— I realized that the last four days I had with Gee, at home, was time I rightfully had no right to expect— time to say goodbye to the woman I love so very much. If you've read my Life with Gee pages, you'll know that just after she was hospitalized, she nearly bled to death. The doctor told me that very few people ever survived a massive internal hemmorhage like the one that happened to Gee. By luck of nature, my wife was a universal recipient— AB positive. That and her complete refusal to break a promise to me were the reasons she survived— and gave us a chance to say goodbye.

When Gee was recovering in the Med-Surg ICU, she told me that she had wanted to keep her promise to me— the one she had made 18 months earlier, when I asked her to marry me. She had promised me that she would never leave me. She told me, her greatest wish was to be able to home one more time. I realized the song pretty much described how we spent the last weekend we had together. I still wish that I could spend more time with Gee— there is so much I never had a chance to tell her— so much I wish I had been able to ask her.

Well— this year, my Christmas wish is quite different. I hope everyone who reads this page will learn what I know now— without having to go through what I have. Pay attention to the people you care about— the people who are truly important to you and that you love— tell them how important they are to you— how empty your life would be without what they bring to it.

My thoughts and my prayers go out to all of you who stop by my home on the web. With warmest wishes for the holiday season— Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Daniel, Beloved of Gee, Twin to David

Customer Disservice

Don't Buy Gateway PC'sSaturday, December 13th, I spent the day with a friend, rebuilding her computer. Last December, she bought a Gateway 500X computer. This past August, she had a problem with it. She had her PC connected to a cable modem and during one of last summer’s thunderstorms, lightning hit the cable system, traveled through the coax cable and fried the cable modem and her computer’s motherboard.

Not knowing exactly what was wrong with her PC, my friend called Gateway. She told them what had happened and they asked her to send it to the repair depot in Arizona, pay $129 to have it diagnosed, and pay for shipping it both ways. She didn't know how long shipping it to the repair depot, having it diagnosed, getting it repaired, and then having it shipped back would take and thought that taking to the local Gateway store and having it diagnosed there would be faster. They told her that was an option.

So, she took the Gateway 500X PC into the Gaithersburg Gateway store. She told them what the situation was, and paid $99 to get a repair estimate and diagnosis. The Gaithersburg Gateway store told her the motherboard had been damaged by the lightning strike and would need to be replaced. The repair department also told her that a replacement motherboard was going to cost $350 and that, because her machine was damaged by a lightning strike, it wasn't covered under warranty. She agreed to pay for the part.

The repair department then told her they weren't sure if a part was available, but that they would check. After a few rounds of phone calls, my friend was told that the part wasn't available for non-warranty repairs as they were being reserved for warranty repairs. Then she was told that she might be better off buying a new computer. This was in September.

After many phone calls and e-mails between my friend, Gateway, and the Gaithersburg Gateway store no progress had been made. Finally, about two weeks ago, my friend received an e-mail saying that a part might be available. Almost four months had passed since the machine was first brought in for repair, and it still wasn't working. She called me earlier in the week and asked for my help.

Saturday morning, about 1030, I arrived at her house. I took a look at her Gateway 500X and realized that it was a Micro-ATX motherboard, but the video card, modem, memory and CPU were probably okay, but the motherboard was fried. So, my friend and I went to a local computer store and I picked out a new motherboard. I selected a Soyo Dragon P4 ATX motherboard since I didn't like the selection they had of Micro-ATX motherboards, so we had to buy a new tower case as well. They had a 10-bay ATX case with two front USB ports for $30. I also picked out a new surge suppressor, an APC unit with 10 outlets and surge protection for coax cable, ethernet and telephone connections. The last item we got was a small gateway/firewall router. All of this cost about $200.

We went back to her house. I then took her Gateway 500X apart and removed the CD-burner, the DVD drive, the hard drive, floppy drive, video card, modem, memory and CPU. I moved the CPU over to the new motherboard and installed it in the new case. I hooked up the case leads, the power connectors, and installed the memory, video card, modem and drives.

I then powered up the new machine... it booted into Windows XP Home, and told me it needed to be activated. I called Microsoft and entered the activation key. We were back up and running.

We ended up repairing it, in fact upgrading it to a more capable machine for about a third of what the repair would cost. The motherboard and case were about $140 dollars after taxes. The new Soyo motherboard can handle the new 3.2 GHz Hyper-threading P4 processors and DDR 533 bus speeds, and has serial ATA capability on-board. The new sound card is 5.1 Dolby surround capable, not just stereo sound. The new case has six free drive bays and four free PCI slots, not one bay and two slots. She’s happy with the new machine— but still unhappy with Gateway.

The real issue I have with this whole episode is this:

The Gateway store charged my friend $99 for a repair estimate but wouldn't sell her the parts needed to complete the repair. Most places, the diagnostic fee (the $99 in this case) is usually applied towards the overall cost of the repair, should the customer go ahead with the repair. In this case, my friend was willing to pay the additional $350 or so that Gateway told her the part would cost, and probably be charged to install it. So for a minimum of $450, her computer would be repaired.

The technician had hinted that if my friend had come in with the machine and said, "I don't know what happened, but the machine just isn't working," the repair would have been covered under warranty and the repair would have cost her nothing. Instead, my friend was honest, because that’s who she is, and told the store the truth, was charged $99, and gotten nothing in return. She was willing to pay for the repair but was denied the parts she needed, because she told the truth, and the repair wasn't covered by the warranty.

This is a perfect example of where customer service has gone wrong— something that happens all too often today. Gateway had a chance to make a profit— she was willing to pay their over-inflated price for the part, as the motherboard isn't worth more than $75, and for the installation. Gateway had a chance to keep a customer happy— as she'd have a working machine four months earlier than she did.

Instead, Gateway has lost a customer— I'm pretty sure she won't ever buy another thing from Gateway— and lost some of the profit they could have made, and returned nothing for the $99 that she was charged.

Furthermore, Gateway has lost most of her friends, family and business associates as possible customers. If you were charged $100 by a company and basically told, "we would charge you through the nose for the part you need but we won't sell you the part because you told us the truth," would you buy from that company?If you were friends with someone who went through this, would you buy from that company? I wouldn't, and I don't think you would.

Ted Waitt wonders why his company, Gateway isn't more successful. It may have a lot more to do with how they treat the customer than it does with the quality or price of their products. Needless to say, this isn't necessarily the typical computer repair experience. I've had good experiences with Toshiba, Apple, and IBM on repairs.

When the Earth Moves

This past Tuesday, something unusual happened. We had a small earthquake here in Virginia. The earthquake’s epicenter was 28 miles west of Richmond, and according to the newspaper articles, about three miles below the surface. As they go, it was a relatively weak earthquake— only 4.5 on the Richter scale.

To give you an idea of how strong the earthquake was— the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, and was one of the most destructive quakes in US history. The Richter scale is logarithmic— the scale ranges from 1 to 10, where 2 is the smallest earthquake that can usually be felt and an increase by 1 on the scale represents an increase in magnitude of 32 times as strong. That means the Northridge earthquake, if my rusty math skills are any good, was 2,000 times as strong as the earthquake we had here.

The earthquake happened around 1600. I was sitting at my computer desk, working on the website, when I felt the house shake a little. It sounded like someone very large was pounding on the front door or a large truck was going down the street. Curious, I walked to the front door and opened it— no one was there. I looked up and down the street for a truck, and I didn't see anything large enough to cause what I had felt.

It wasn't until that evening, listening to the news on NPR, that I realized what had happened. Once I realized, I called my father and said, "Hey pop... we just had an earthquake here." He said he had heard about it on television and asked if everything was okay. I told him, aside from being a little surprised, it didn't look like anything happened here.

Tonight, the earth moved in my mind. Last week, I was invited to spend the evening at Landmark Education by one of my best friends. Brian was finishing his CPP course, and asked if I would join him for the final session. During the final session of Brian’s CPP— in one of the exercises the course leader ran— I realized that the foundation in Gee’s memory I'm working on is just a building block towards what I really had wished for three years ago— a cure for pancreatic cancer. The foundation isn't a reality yet— but with hard work and a little help from my friends and family— it will be. I'll keep you posted on the progress of the foundation from time-to-time.

Landmark Forum

Brian asked me to do the Landmark Forum back in 2001, about three months after Gee died. I did it in December 2001— it was amazing. I've been planning to finish the Curriculum for Living, of which the Forum is the foundation, but for various reasons— mostly work-related— I haven't had the chance. Its impact on my life led me to enroll Brad and Cindy into doing the Forum up in Boston. Brad has continued and finished the Curriculum for Living, as have Brian, Katy and Beth. I would highly recommend doing the Landmark Forum.

Growing Older—Part Two

Click
      to see large picture!This past week has brought more reminders that I'm getting older. My friends Brian and Katy celebrated their daughter’s first birthday (I've posted a photo of Charlotte’s birthday cake). This past week also marked another year without my twin David. It’s strange to think that my twin, David, will always be a teenager... that he won't ever get married, have children, watch them grow up, or grow older.

I am amazed at the progress that Charlotte has made in the past year— I guess children are a miracle... Gee and I never had a chance to have children, but we had discussed it several times. I wonder what kind of father I'd be. Brian seems very suited to fatherhood... it seems to have really grounded him. To say that he dotes on Charlotte is an understatement.

For our birthday, I had dinner with Michele and Megan. Michele is Gee’s little sister, and Megan is a mutual friend. We went to a restaurant in Alexandria. The restaurant is called Afghan Restaurant, not the most creative name for an Afghani restaurant, but the food is good and pretty reasonably priced. Afghani food is similar to Pakistani and Indian food as the three countries have a common original culture— the main difference in the three cuisines is as you go farther east and south— the spicier the food— Afghani food is the mildest, and Indian cuisine is usually the spiciest.

There was a time, just after my twin died, that I didn't celebrate out birthday. It took me seven years to learn that I needed to celebrate out birthday— to celebrate his life and remember him. Not too many people seem to remember that it isn't just my birthday, but our birthday.

Thanksgiving—Real Values and a Seasonal Rant...

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone. The madness of the Christmas shopping season started this morning. It seems that the Christmas sales and decorations come out just a little earlier every year... it seems that some stores started their Christmas decorating just after Halloween this year.

The stores must be fairly desperate, as the post-Thanksgiving to Christmas season is on the short side this year. I don't really like the complete commercialization of Christmas. I think Americans have become far too concerned with status, consumer consumption, and materialism— old-fashioned values, like friendship, family, and the real ideals behind Christmas seem to have been forgotten.

During the holiday season, I see the media talking about helping the elderly, the sick, the poor and the homeless. They all seem to get a lot of lip service, but very few people seem to be able to remember them once the holidays season is over— true compassion isn't something that comes and goes with the holidays— yet in this country— one of the richest in the world— we have done very little for the poor, the sick and the homeless.

We pay athletes and entertainers millions of dollars, yet we under pay the people who provide basic social services for our society. Teachers, day-care workers, police and fire safety personnel are all among the least fairly compensated— at least in light of what they provide to the society as a whole.

We don't yet have universal health-care, or even affordable child-care in most places. We still give huge tax-breaks to the very wealthy— but not to the working poor— in many states, it is easier to be on welfare, than it is to have a low-paying job— on welfare you qualify for healthcare insurance for your children, which you often can not get at low-wage jobs.

We treat criminals far better than we treat the honest, hard-working poor. If you're convicted of a crime and go to prison— you get three square meals-a-day, free health care, free exercise facilities, free cable tv, free rent, and often, a free education. Granted, you're living in a cage... but I think the French had the right idea with Devil’s Island. Why should society pay to allow convicted criminals a better standard of living than you can get from being honest, and working for an honest days wages... If you're working at a low-wage job— you often don't get health insurance, or have to pay out of pocket for it—you still have to pay for a health club membership, cable tv, rent and groceries. An education, even at a small community college, is often an unaffordable luxury.

We have people living in 5,000 square foot homes, yet we don't seem to be able to provide affordable, safe low-cost housing for someone in a low-paying job to buy. Isn't the ability to own your own home really part of the American Dream?

I've also seen people, who have their health, a job, a roof over their heads, and enough food to feed their family, complaining that they aren't happy. I don't know what it would take to make these people happy. I've learned over time, that money is rarely something that leads to happiness. Granted, a minimum amount of money is necessary to living a comfortable life— but money can not buy happiness, health, love or any of the other things I consider really important.

The holiday season is a time of joy for many people... but I think it should also be a time of deep thought and reflection about how we treat our fellow human beings. Race, religion, sexual orientation, social status have all been used to discriminate against our fellow man. I hope we can take the time to reflect on how we treat others and see if there are places we can do better— and if there are such places— make a promise in the next year to do better— make a conscious effort to change the world around us.

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Click to see large picture!I was up in Boston this past week to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. It is really amazing to me to see him being a grandfather to my nephews—he spoils them unbelievably. It’s hard for me to realize that he is getting older—slowing down a bit in what he does.

The celebration was fairly small, unlike the monster of a party we had when he turned 60. In Korean society two birthdays in particular are very highly celebrated... the first is your first birthday, probably because until recently, children often didn't make it to being a year old as infant mortality was fairly high in Korea; the other is your 60th birthday, an age where one is respected for one’s achievements, descendents, and hopefully, wisdom.

The photo is of my parents at Brad’s wedding in October— click on it to see a larger version.

A Reminder of the Past and a Beach of Stone...

While I was up in Boston, about a week after Brad’s wedding, I took a trip up to Cape Ann. Most people don't really know much about Cape Ann, as it’s more southern and much larger relative, Cape Cod is much more well known. Cape Ann is home to Gloucester, home of the famous fisherman, and the artist colony of Rockport.

A few miles down route 127 from Rockport harbor is the Halibut Point State Park. The park used to be the home of the Rockport Granite Company, until the company closed doors shortly after World War I. The granite from this quarry was used in a quite a few buildings in the Boston area.

Click to see large picture!The park visitors' center is housed in a World War II-era watch tower that was part of the defenses for the harbors in Portsmouth, Gloucester and Boston. The 60-foot tall tower was renovated about 10 years ago to become the visitors' center.

Click to see large picture!The fall colors were almost in full swing on the scrub brush bordering the beach. In the background is a house that neighbors the park. Many years ago, the couple that lived in the house told me of Nor'easters bringing in waves that broke over the house.

Click to see large picture!As you can see from the photograph, the beach itself is made of giant slabs of granite. I prefer the rugged beauty of a New England sea coast, rather than the pristine beauty of a southern beach. Somewhere in my archives, I have a photo of my friend Brad, on his crutches, standing in the middle of this vast field of boulders, on his way from one trailhead to the other. This was about ten years ago, and he was quite happy to try walking the beach... I don't think he'd try to do it today.

Brad & Cindy Parmenter—The Wedding of Friends

Click
      to see large picture!This weekend has been a busy one. I was honored to be the best man at the wedding of my friends Brad and Cindy. Although weddings have been pretty difficult for me since Gee passed away, this one was especially important for me to be at— Brad was the best man at my wedding, and I really could do no less for him.

Click
      to see large picture!One of the greatest compliments Gee and I've have ever been paid was when Brad told me, "he would have never understood what he and Cindy have together if he had never seen me and Gee." They're really a great couple and totally devoted to each other.

I wasn't the photographer at his wedding, although many years ago, Brad had asked me to do so, but I did have my digital camera with me and I did take a few photographs, so I've posted them on this site.

Brian and Katy Howe, David and Melissa Cowles and Lonny and Jeannie Bowen— all inherited Brad and Cindy from me and were there as well.

Dreams of Bluewater and Sailing Away on an F-28...

One of my hobbies is sailing. My twin brother and I learned to sail on a lake near the house we grew up in. One of the funniest...and probably the dumbest things we ever did in a sailboat was sailing under a bridge on the Charles river. The problem we ran into was on the way back...we ran into the bridge. The wind died while we were heeled over and passing back under the bridge. The boat righted itself and the mast got caught under the bridge...we had to drop the mast to get the boat out... Looking back on it— I don't think I've ever sweared so much while sailing... or laughed so hard afterwards.

An Ian Farrier Designed Corsair F-28The sailboat photos are of an Ian Farrier-designed Corsair F28. The F28 is a trimaran multihull that is designed to fold up so you can trailer the sailboat. The amas fold to reduce the width from almost 20' to a little over 8'. One day, I'd really like to own one of these or something similar.

Another photo of a Corsair F-28I found out about Ian Farrier when I was down in Virginia’s Tidewater area. I was looking at an older Ian Farrier Eagle with my father-in-law. The Eagle is a daysailing version of the trimaran multi-hull design that evolved into the Corsair F28. It’s a bit smaller though–only 20' long and 15' wide. It also collapses down to about 8' wide so it can be towed on a trailer.

Well...that’s all for now...I'll update this some more later.