Google SoC

We’ve been discussing submitting Xfce for participation in Google’s Summer of Code program, and even came up with some good project ideas. Unfortunately, we got rejected. Boo on Google.

MySpace for the Dead

Incredibly disturbing and morbid site of the day: MyDeathSpace.

Little Kids

I just read the cutest story ever about a little kid and computers.

WP Update

I updated Wordpress to 2.0.2ish. Let me know if stuff breaks.

Why Buy GOOG?

Here’s an interesting perspective from a former Google employee, wondering why people buy Google’s stock.

His point is that usually you buy stock in a company because you get something, such as maybe a) dividends, b) some controlling interest in what the company does with your money, c) some kind of special privilege for owning the stock, d) some kind of information as to what the company is doing or planning. But with Google, you get none of this. The current owners of the company have 10 times the shares privately held as there are shares publically available. They don’t pay dividends, and say they never will. They’re no less tight-lipped to you about the company’s plans than they are to non-shareholders. So why buy GOOG?

I agree, for the most part, but when you buy stock in a company, if you’re not doing it for the dividends or control, really the only thing you have left is the hope that you can buy it at a (relatively) low price, hold it for a while, and sell it at a higher price, thus making some kind of profit. (Of course, there are other things that can be involved, but I’m talking about J. Random Investor here.) For me, I don’t think that’s enough to warrant buying stock in a company. If my only hope for a return was a stock-price increase, I’d rather put my money into bonds, or mutual funds that balance investments to increase share price. Day-traders might find the buy low/sell high sort of thing appealing, but for a company like Google, it seems too risky if you’re looking for a long-term investment.

Granted, if you had bought stock only a short time after the IPO, when it was going for under $150, you could potentially have a bundle now, as the stock peaked a couple months ago over $450. Even if you sold now, you’d at least double your investment (ignoring taxes and fees).

But how could you know that back then? At the time of the IPO, conventional wisdom seemed to be that it would explode for a short time after the IPO, and then stabilise to something under $100. Of course, everything is a risk with the stock market, and some people might have been willing to take more of a risk. Though the fact that it did hit $450, but is now down around $340, seems to indicate that it definitely has the potential to drop if/when investors seem to finally think the company is over-valued.

Anyway, what do I know… My experience with such things is minimal.

Last Names

Apparently, Nikki Cox and Jay Mohr are engaged. Indeed, “Mohr-Cox” would be the best last name ever.

Weird Pride

Why do we take pride in strange, often negative things? Why do we wear the day-to-day shit we hate like a badge of honor?

I just don’t get it. When I was in school, it was always a contest to see who had the most work to do, or who was so swamped that they were constantly behind and getting their ass kicked trying to play catch-up. You have three exams this week? Wow, you must be so cool. Two lab reports, a research paper, four problem sets, and a project due tomorrow? Seriously, you’re hot shit. Taking 24 credits this semester and you don’t have time for anything but school work? Damn, you must be amazing.

On any given day, a look down my AIM list at away messages would tell me of all the terrible things everyone was going through. And mine was right there with the rest of them.

What’s the deal? Is it a natural extension of the “misery loves company” line of thought? Is it a sick way of showing off, proving that you can handle more work than anyone else? Is it somehow cool to work yourself beyond exhaustion and depression?

Well, here’s my life now. I work a relatively moderate amount. Sure, sometimes I don’t get home until 7 or 8, and occasionally I have conference calls at night. But I make up for it by going to work later than most people, and I get to have some fun and down time while I’m there, as long as I get my work done. I’m well-liked and maybe even respected at the office, despite my relative youth and lack of experience. After work, some days I’ll go out dancing, whether for fun or to practice. Sometimes I’ll just go home and catch up on the TV shows I like, or work on some software I enjoy hacking on. Or maybe I’ll drive out to meet some friends for dinner, a movie, some ice cream, some gaming, or just to hang out for a while. Perhaps I’ll leave work a little early to shoot the shit at the bar with some co-workers, and then head back later to get some work done while the beer wears off.

My weekends are my own. From the time I leave the office Friday evening, I don’t even have to think about work until Monday morning if I don’t want to. I can sleep in as late as I want on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s no reason why I need to be up. I never have to spend time in the library studying (not that I did much of that in college). I’m never in the lab all night trying to figure out why my 32-bit asynchronous ALU suffers signal degradation in the most significant 4 bits. I’m never beating my head against a computer monitor at 4:30am, desperately hoping my semaphores will start working properly in time for the project turn-in deadline.

Do I have a perfect life? No. Are there things that could be better? Sure. Am I totally stress-free? Of course not. But I think I’m doing pretty damned well. And while I do work, I have free time, and I don’t have to feel guilty about other work that I could and should be doing. I don’t have problem sets that were due weeks ago that I haven’t gotten to. I don’t have lectures and sections that I’ve missed, and I’m not so far behind that I’m embarrassed to go to a TA and ask for help.

But even with all that, I can’t let it go. At any reasonable opportunity, I’ll point out that I had to stay in school an extra semester because I got so behind and was such a terrible student. I’ll joke about how I feel like I came somewhat close to getting kicked out of school. I’ll wax nostalgic over how I never really learned to study because I never had to in high school, and how that made college so much harder. If that stuff doesn’t seem to fit the conversation, I’ll try and work in how exhausted my job makes me, or how frustrated I am with certain people who make it hard for me to do my job. It’s always a contest to see who has it worst.

What’s wrong with being happy? What’s wrong with having down time, and fun time? What’s wrong with honestly not having anything more pressing to do than curl up on the couch with a good book? Why can’t life be about all the good things, instead of the crap we have to deal with? Why does being happy sometimes actually make me feel guilty? Why?

Maybe it’s just the people I talk to and hang out with. One of them works a full time job, and for some sick reason takes night classes. Another is still an undergrad, and she sounds just like I used to. Yet another is back in grad school at Cornell, busy all the time. Another is in law school: ‘nuff said. One is in grad school, and generally hates her life. Another is finishing up a master’s degree, and he’s constantly behind on everything due to other obligations.

How about people out of school, with jobs? One works 60+ hours a week, but still finds time to have fun. Another works a relatively normal work week, and gets out and does things as often as he can. Someone else gets to play with fun equipment at his job, and goes to bars and parties and plays gigs on weekends. One of my not-too-much-older co-workers recently bought a house with his wife. Another friend is living in another country to start a business doing something that interests him. Does everyone love their jobs? No, of course not. But at worst they can separate it from the other parts of their lives. It’s not always there, controlling, evoking guilt, demanding attention. And the bottom line is it pays. I don’t care who you are: getting paid to do something you don’t like is always preferable to paying to do something you don’t like.

My conclusion: education is a horrible, traumatic experience, though a necessary evil. I’m glad I got out of it when I did, and I hope I have the sense never to go back unless I have a damned good reason. And if I do, I hope I can take it a lot less seriously than the last time around. Life is too short to be hating it for any period of time.

Un-Patriot Act Renewal

Looks like most of the renewal of the misleadingly-named Patriot Act has passed a House vote, by a small margin. Supposedly this new version of the Act gives greater protections to the civil liberties of suspected terrorists. From the article, looks like it’s pretty weak. No surprise there.

“This legislation is a win for law enforcement, the war on drugs, and for communities and families across America,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said in remarks prepared for Wednesday.

Is it really? I’ve failed to hear of a claim that the Patriot Act has been used even once to bring a terrorist to justice. And what does this have to do with the ineptly-executed “war on drugs”? Why are terrorism “protections” being applied to unrelated activities? Sure, you can make the argument that drug trafficking supposedly funds terrorist activities. But you can make that argument about just about anything. It’s a scare tactic used for overly-broad justification, and nothing more.

“Intense congressional and public scrutiny has not produced a single substantiated claim that the Patriot Act has been misused to violate Americans’ civil liberties,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Really? What about cases like this one? How is that at all acceptable in civilised society? I found that with a quick search. I’m sure I could find more with minimal effort. Hell, I’ll even take the first step: look through the list yourself.

And how about foreign nationals? Does our way of life suddenly mean nothing when dealing with foreigners? Many people have been imprisoned for years without trial, some without even being accused of anything. Guantanamo Bay, anyone?

It makes me sick. But really, what can I do about it? I feel totally incapable of affecting anything.

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