Friday, July 28, 2006

Another reason I hate cars.

My daughter borrowed my car last night to spend some time with her friends (not an unusual occurrence). On the way back, an animal run out in front of her, she swerved to avoid it and struck a bank of mailboxes. She was really upset about it but I couldn't be that angry with her. While I would prefer that, in those situations she brake more and swerve less, I've list control of my vehicle and taken out a mailbox before myself. It happens.

No, what upset her most, and me as well, was the sheer amount of damage done to the car. The front quarter panel was seriously caved in. The passenger side rear-view mirror was torn off completely and a number of scrapes spread across both doors.Many, many years ago, we were involved in an accident while driving my Grandfather's 1979 Bonneville. We hit the other car which had spun out in front of us on snow-slicked roads. We were going at perhaps around 30 mph, hit the other vehicle full on and had only minor damage. A bent bumper and some fender dents that could be bent out without much trouble. The car was a ton and a half of American steel.

Today's cars are built much like my bicycle helmet, designed to completely disintegrate in an impact so that all the kinetic energy of an accident goes into destroying the car and not into the passengers. But the downside of that is in very minor accidents, the damage instantly racks up a very high repair cost . My wife's car was rear-ended a few weeks ago. She had to point out the damage to me because I couldn't see it and that repair cost nearly $1000 dollars. For me, it could easily cost several times that. Certainly more than I still own in payments on it.

The car hit a mailbox, for crying out loud! A PLASTIC mailbox. OK, it was actually several plastic mailboxes, but still, the ratio of threat to damage is way over balanced.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reinventing the wheel

It was the middle of a thunderstorm when my shift ended so I loitered in the office. I was talking to K*** about a remote access call that she had been troubleshooting when D**** came and laid a piece of paper on her desk. (Interrupting our work-relevant conversation, but that never stopped him before.) The paper had a list of systems for which users might call for passwords and K*** was tasked with searching the Help Desk Reference Manual and writing down the links to get to the documents that described the procedure for changing those passwords.

It was presented as a project but, once D**** walked away, I identified it for what it was: a test. "He knows all these documents. He just wants to test to see if you know these documents."

"Well that's stupid. I have that all listed here," she said, indicating a paper pined up in her cubicle.

Years ago, I created a "cheat sheet" with a list of password procedures. It wasn't detailed but it was a simple two pages with a short procedure or a phone number or a reference to a lengthy procedure that could be found in the Reference Manual. I had gone over all these in training so this would be a quick reminder of the procedure. That document (as with most of the streamlined documentation I wrote), was edited by someone else. There was plenty of cross-referencing and it grew to a less-useful six pages in length. The document K**** was referencing was yet a third version written by parties unknown. And now, D**** is creating even a fourth version of the same sort of thing because, Surprise! Surprise! Because there is no longer a formalized training program with classroom instruction, people aren't learning how to do the password changes. They are just being told to go to the Reference Manual and fend for themselves.

But, the Reference Manual isn't a training document and is not suited to that task. In all honesty, it's barely suited to be a reference manual.

I damn well better not find one of those quizzes on my desk when I go in tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Blocking the way.

On the way back to my car after work, I found this Mazda 3 pretty much blocking the end of the trail in Panther Hollow.PA license DNH-5038First off, there was the sign a few hundred feet back that said that this was a private driveway and there was no parking. Next, it was a closed gate, which should give someone a clue that maybe they shouldn't park there. Third, it's a bike trail so there are going to be plenty of bicycles going by. Why park almost directly in the way of where the traffic is going to be moving when, if you still want to be a moron, you can park a yard or two to the left and ant least keep your pretty car away from the potential for dings and scratches?

All that being said, some offended cyclist had left a huge spitwad on the passenger window to show his displeasure. This sort of behavior only compounds the situation. The parking pinhead will feel justified in causing trouble for "those damn cyclists."

So, I choose the tack that I used with Codename P, documentation. Maybe next time I'll call the police to have them issue a parking citation.

Disproportionate labor

A very busy day for me at the help desk. One call after another for a total of 97 calls. The entire Help Desk, 31 analysts, took 1,000 calls which works out to me doing nearly 10% of the work for being 3% of the staff. I'm doing the work of three analysts. Well, since two of the team leads each took one call and one actually took two calls, I know which three I'm doing the work of.

It's been three weeks since the new analysts started and I have yet to see any reduction in the workload. Had I still been training the way I think training should be done, they would be working and pulling their weight by now. Instead, I'm working my ass off and getting nothing for it.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager

First, this is hysterical. Second, it reminds be of D****, team lead at the Help Desk, petty tyrant and my arch-nemesis.

With things so busy at the Help Desk recently, the seven minute guidelines have gotten even shorter. Now, if you cannot resolve the callers issue in FOUR minutes, they want you to write a ticket and end the call. You can barely find out what the problem is in four minutes, let alone implement a solution. If rebooting the PC is one of the troubleshooting steps then that will take those four minutes right up.

D**** has been IM-ing me regularly about wrapping up my calls and I have simply been ignoring him.

"You have failed me for the last time."

"That's what you said last time."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Not better the second time around.

Last night, I was cruising through the postings on Pittsburgh Bloggers and decided to make comment on one of them. You can read the blog at Michael P. O'Connor site but what was said and my response are not important to this particular blog. No, this is about the creative process.

After writing my comment and submitting, it was rejected because Mike had added a filter to his blog to combat SPAM. One of the words I had used in the posting was on that restriction list and was rejected. I tried the back button to re-edit my posting but my text was gone. Lost to the aether.

An hour later, after driving my wife to pick up her car at the shop, I returned to my computer and attempted to recreate my posting with some simple editing to get the posting past the censor. It was futile. Sure, I made many of the same points as my original attempt but the muse was gone. I don't think my second attempt was half as good as the first one.

For me, writing is easy. Sort of. When I get an idea in my head and start writing, if flows out of me. It's like an extemporaneous speech that takes on a life of its own. It's usually my best work and I do very little substantive editing. But, if I have to come back to something, if I am interrupted or delayed or think too much about it, the result isn't quite as good. And that happens often. I ride my bike and compose essays in my head. I can't write them down so that first draft, the best stuff, is often lost. I've tried some techniques to keep from loosing that spark but they ultimately don't work.

Sometimes, I go over things repeatedly in the hopes of keeping the best elements fresh in my mind until I can get somewhere to write them down. The blog you are reading now started last night as I lay awake in bed thinking about having lost the initial post. I went through two additional drafts on my bike ride into work and another on the way home. For all that repetition, I may have captured some of what I really should have posted last night when I first thought of it.

It was suggested to me to use a tape recorder so that I could record my compositions immediately but it didn't work. As soon as I pressed the button to record, my mind emptied. Perhaps if I had a voice activated recorder that was always attached, like those people with Bluetooth cell phone headsets, I could just raise the volume of my talking to myself and capture it. Of course, I hate hearing myself on tape so I'd have to feed it into a voice recognition and transcription software.

What I really need is some magical device that will record my internal monologue for later editing and compilation. It'd be like those little yellow boxes that appear in the corners of comic book frames.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who was that masked man?

I normally park my bike at the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail where it meets Grant Street because I prefer not to ride on busy downtown streets. That's going to change for a while as the sidewalk is closed across from PNC's Firstside Center and they tear it up to build a park on the site of the former Public Safety Building.

As I pulled in front of my office building to lock up at one of the newer Bike-Pgh racks that have gone up all over town, I see a raccoon on the sidewalk, pacing back and forth trying to find some way out of town. I guess he'd came downtown looking to raid the garbage can buffet and found himself kind of trapped as the humans returned. A few of those humans, security guards from my office building, were watching his antics.

Just after I finished bolting my bike, the raccoon started coming right towards me. My thought was to kick my foot at him (while not actually kicking him) and turn him back so he didn't run out into the street but he went right by me, climbed up the spokes of my front tire and then went right up the tree next to the bike rack. Well, that was as safe as anything for now.

The show was over so the guards went back inside to the air conditioned comfort of the lobby. (At 6:15 this morning, downtown had already reached 77 degrees.) When I went in and up to the security desk, I asked, "Is anyone going to call Animal Control to come and take him where he ought to be?"

"I don't even know who we would call," the guard said.

"Ahhh, you call Animal Control."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You can't handle the truth.

Walking from the air-conditioned theater into the 90+ degree heat outside was an interesting epilogue to Al Gore's eco-disaster film "An Inconvenient Truth." I've tried to compose a coherent essay on the film but it just wouldn't come together so instead I have a list of random points and comments:

Where was this guy during the campaign of 2000? The Al Gore then was
serious but wooden but this Al Gore is animated, witty, passionate. If this was the guy running for president then, it wouldn't have been a split decision that went to the courts (and the world would be a better place for it). He starts off the movie with “Hello, I’m Al Gore and I used to be the next President of the United States.”

Al Gore. Emperor of the MoonAnd speaking of animated, the "Futurama" crossover movie trailer is a lot of fun. And the sedeprecatinging humor of Al Gore's appearance in one of the episode shows how he has matured. He even uses a "Futurama" clip in his movie. Of course, it all makes a lot more sense when you find out that his daughter is a writer for "Futurama."

I give a lot of credit to the official movie website. The link for reviews does not take you to a page of filtered or hand-picked favorable reviews. Instead, it takes you to Rotten Tomatoes where the reviews are what they are. And that happens to be currently rated at 92% favorable.

Our Fearless Leader (and I mean that in the most derogatory manner
possible) was asked whether he would see "An Inconvenient Truth." He said that he wouldn't. On the other hand, Bush did read Michael Crichton's novel "State of Fear" in which global warming is portrayed as a political hoax. He reportedly loved that book and brought Crichton to the White House to talk at length about it. Apparently, Dubbya is basing his environmental policies on the work of a novelist. No, that's not true. Dubbya has come to a conclusion without any scientific input whatsoever and then promotes those viewpoints (like Crichton's) that already match his own. Leadership unhindered by the thought process.

There are only 475 days until Dubbya is no longer the President.

See this movie. Save the world.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A heck of a picnic.

I was going to be going to an atlatl competition at Flint Ridge, Ohio. Since it was a three hour drive and with gas prices what they are, I wanted to maximize my day so, in addition to the event, I was also going to ride some bicycle trails I hadn't even been on before. I got up at 5:00am to get going.

At some point heading west on Route 70, I saw a wheel disconnect from a dump truck behind me. I always marvel at the huge numbers of truck wheels and tire fragments I find strewn across American highways. Don't the people driving them pay any attention at all to the condition of their vehicles? I can't imaging that these things just sponateously happen without any sort of warning. I had a flat once and changed the tire of my car. Almost immediately after moving again, I noticed an odd sound and slight shimmy, pulling over to discover that two of the bolts weren't tight enough. That was just two loose bolts. How much mist one drive, ignoring all the signs, to have a whole wheel fall off?

I first rode the 4 mile Blackhand Gorge Trail. Then, went a little further north to ride the Thomas J. Evans Trail (or at least the eastern section of it).

There is along this trail, well, the picture sort of speaks for itself:That is the largest picnic basket I have ever seen. Actually, it's not an actual basket. It is the 7-storey corporate offices of the Longaberger Basket Company. At this scale, picnickers would be over 900 feet tall. The ants would be 3 feet long.

After riding for a number of hours, it was starting to get really hot and humid so, before going back south to Flint Ridge, I drove up Route 16 to find a Wendy's I had seen from the trail. It was attached to a gas station and as I pulled in I saw that regular gas was at $2.879 a gallon. It had been $2.899 when I filled my tank in Pittsburgh so I though I might fill top off the tank for the trip home. But by the time I had obtained by chicken nugget combo with an extra large lemonade, I came out to find the price had jumped to $2.999 a gallon. A 12 cent jump in as many minutes.

My afternoon at Flint Ridge was extremely hot so I would throw a round of darts and then escape to the relative cool of the pavilion. I dined over-throw and tire myself out, nor did I over-think my rounds so I was able to put in my best personal score of 78.

There's another competition next weekend in Saegertown. I didn't remember it being on my calendar, I think because there is something else there that I have planned. I'll have to take another look at that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Like Water under a Troubled Bridge

PennDOT sponsored a public meeting to go over the plans for the renovations of Route 28 between the Heinz plant and the 40th Street Bridge. Specifically the realignment to the highway and railroad tracks at the 31st Street Bridge.

The plan presented at a meeting earlier this year, called Alternative 7, would turn the intersection at the 31st Street Bridge into an interchange, allowing traffic to keep flowing without having to stop at a light. The space required for the added ramps would push the railroad tracks over. In addition, Norfolk-Southern wants extra space should they want to add a third track in the future. This would push the maintenance road still closer to the river. Now, the maintenance road is currently the only connection between the North Shore Trail and the Millvale Trail. It's trespassing for cyclists to use it but Norfolk-Southern hasn't been paying attention and there have been plans to build an official trail connection. Except that the realignment would push that into the river.At the meeting, located at the DCNR office on Washington's Landing (Herr's Island), just across from the affected area, PennDOT announced that they went back to their engineers to look at another solution. What they came up with was building a retaining walls so that the 10-12 foot wide trail would be 8-10 feet or so below the maintenance road grade and above the river with another retaining wall and a fence. The bad news was that PennDOT would not be able to roll the $1.5-$2 million cost of the trail into the $92 million budget for the project. It would be someone else's responsibility to come up with that funding.

To the three of us representing the bicycling community, this was all pretty good news. We could have the trail connector we've been wanting all along (rather than trespassing on railroad maintenance roads) and $2 million dollars is within the realm of possibility. The bids for the refurbishing of the Hot Metal Bridge had come in $2 million over budget and a Federal transportation improvement fund somethingorother was able to come up with that so the project could move ahead. With that out of the way, the backchannel connector could easily move up in the funding queue.

The rest of the audience didn't see it that way. You see, they were all residents of Washington's Landing and they had issues well beyond the trail. Because the access road was railroad property and Norfolk-Southern had been unwilling to actually give away or sell the property, Millvale has been looking at other ways to connect their trail to points south. One plan was to use an abandoned railroad bridge at the upstream end of Washington's Landing to take the trail over the backchannel to connect back to the mainland at the already existing bridge at the south end. CSX owns that bridge and even though they aren't using it, they don't want to give it up. They offered to sell it for some exorbitant price for which Millvale could build their own bridge.

Islanders were irate that they hadn't been consulted on this bridge. Some even said that this was the first they had heard about it (even though I had heard about it back in February and Millvale had been working on the plan for a number of years.) One of the first people to voice their opposition asked if a lawsuit brought against PennDOT stopping the project would be enough to "crush" this bridge. The way they see it is that the bridge project is further along. Millvale is looking to start construction next year while PennDOT won't even finalize their design for three years. If this bridge gets built, then when construction finally begins on shore, all the pedestrian and bicycle traffic is going to be redirected onto their island. And once there is that connection to points south, no-one's going to want to spend another $2 million building another connection on the mainland, leaving them stuck with all these undesirables encroaching on their yuppie paradise.

I wanted to stand up and say: "Your island sucks . . . for bicycling. I would trespass on the railroad maintenance road, the way people have been doing for years, before I'd ride on your crappy, narrow paths. It would take about a week for someone with a pair of wire cutters to cut through a chain link fence to provide a throughway."

One of Millvale's interests was to provide access to the amenities on the island; a restaurant and marina, while giving the islanders access to mainland amenities like the rower's club. The Islander's response was to say they only have one little restaurant, not worth building a bridge to.

They also ranted about the plan in general. Realigning the railroad tracks is going to move them 50 feet closer to their island and they wanted to see the studies that indicated that the increase in noise was going to be negligible. The studies they cited (apparently pulled out of their asses and based solely on their own personal opinion) said that it would increase the noise in "their back yard". They complained about the increased traffic. They complained about not being involved. They complained about not knowing what was going on.

Bullshit. I knew about the plans back in February. The project proposal is available online. The general outline was covered on television, radio and in newspapers. They have no excuse to be surprised.

One of the Islanders said, "We open our arms to everyone." That's a lie. All the time I was there, I felt like I was an uninvited interloper. I was not looked at as a potential ally in getting the trail built, I was one of those cyclists who were going to be cutting through their community on my way elsewhere. And every time they talked about the bridge, or Millvale or the trail users, it was always in the form of Us vs. Them.

Being one of Them, I saw no open arms.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Help on the way

The so-called "help on the way" from last week has apparently arrived in the form of at least four new faces at the Help Desk. Since I have been toiling away in my own little 48 square foot solitary confinement gulag, I hadn't noticed their arrival on the floor earlier this week. I recall that when I was still the Help Desk trainer, the first day would involve taking all the new analysts around the cubicles to meet their coworkers. I guess they don't do that anymore.

What's the point? Of the people that they hired in the past six months (without employing my services as trainer) only about a quarter of them are still around. Not a very good burn rate. But, I had warned them explicitly about that. Treat these people like crap, don't give them the tools they need to do the job, and they will be gone faster than it took to bring them in.

I wonder how long this batch will last.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Surf Nazis Must Die

The guardians of productivity and deniers of information at The Bank have blocked my personal website. What I find astonishing is that the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins sport team websites, surely responsible for more wasted time bank-wide than my little website could every hope for, are still readily available. As are a number flash game sites.

So, what methodology do the Internet Nazis use to determine which sites are not business related and are slated for blockage? Why do the handful of webcomics and my own innocuous website get blocked when other more egregious offenders are not? Well, in the case of the sport sites, I suspect that executive staff have something to do with it.

Years ago, Instant Messenger (IM) was used a lot. The network people looked at the ports IM used as a security risk and blocked them. Executives that used IM for whatever reason made a stink and the ports were opened up again. This cycled back and forth several times before The Bank purchased licenses for Lotus's Sametime application, apparently more secure than IM.

So, with these sport sites, I suspect that if they were blocked, some executive would make some sort of stink about it and, even though it has no conceivable business purpose, because he is an executive he gets what he wants. I've seen this double standard happen before. A lawyer for the CEO was having a hardware problem with his laptop. Even though he was at home he demanded that a ticket be opened even though I told him that the hardware contractors not only weren't going to service his machine on a weekend but they weren't going to go to his home. When the hardware group closed the ticket for the reasons I just described, the exec's lawyer called back and made the same demands. He made such a stink up and down the line that eventually an analyst from the Help Desk went to his home to work on the issue. This violated all sorts of contractual agreements but the execs didn't care. Even when it was they who had agreed to and probably signed those agreements.

It's the double standard that irks me the most about this. These guys don't see this as unethical behavior.

That, and they've blocked Wikipedia, too.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Slush in my skull.

At the end of the day I left work swiftly so that I could hurry home because my daughter was going to borrow the car for the weekend and wanted to get started driving while there was still plenty of daylight. I walked half way across town to the end of Grant Street where I normally park my bike and had a momentary "Where the fuck is my bike" panic before remembering that this morning I had parked my bike right outside my building so that I could get going more swiftly.

The past month of all-day queues because we have been short staffed is really taking its toll on my brain. I'm not sleeping well, running on about four hours a night. I've lost my appetite. When I get home, I have no motivation to do the website and other computer work that needs to get done. I pulled a class out of the dish drain and before I got over to the refrigerator to get some ice from the freezer I had forgotten and had reached into the cabinet to get another glass.

"Help is on the way."

So said the e-mail from the Operations Manager, praising us for our hard work. That help arrived yesterday in the form of a single new employee. That is, I think that's who the new face is because he wasn't introduced around (at least, not to me) and I am certainly not involved in his training. We've lost at least half a dozen in the past month; one isn't going to make an appreciable difference even if they do get him trying to take password calls in record time.

My brain is no longer functioning properly and weekends aren't enough to recover.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Net income objectives

Just got an e-mail saying that The Corporation has reinstated 401k
matching. We'll see how log this lasts. You see, back in April of 2002 was when we first had our 401k matching discontinued. A month later they discontinued bonuses and instituted a salary freeze. It wasn't until September of 2004, after the company got bought by The Corporation that 401k matching was re-instituted. We thought at the time that it was the first sign that things might be improving. But less than a year later, in August of 2005, 401k matching was again discontinued.

Now, they are trying again.

"The company will once again be providing a match component to the 401K plan. There will be a standard match in which the Company will match 50% of the contributions you make to the 401K Plan after July 1st. This Company match is limited and will only apply to the first 2% of your pay. In addition, the company will provide a performance match. If the company achieves its net income objectives, the Company will match an additional 50% of your contributions made after July 1st."

Why are they coming up with a dumb-ass number like "50% of the first 2%"? Why don't they just say 1%?

Ohhhh, I'm all aquiver. 50% of the first 2% of my income is a little over $300 a year. At this rate, I'll be able to retire in 2178.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Declaration of Independence

Patriotism is not about passing constitutional amendments against flag burning and same sex mariages. Patriotism is not anti-immigrant. It is not all these small minded things. It is big. Bigger than politians. Bigger than corporations or special interests. It is, I'm afraid, something that has been forgotten. Most especially forgotten in this flag waving time of "if you don't support our president, you don't support our troops."

I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independance carefully. Don't just scan over it an think you know what it says. Read every word and thik about what our founding fathers were really talking about. The nation they dreamed of. All they were willing to risk.

Then ask yourself what relevance their declaration has today. How many of the things did they speak about are still resonating across the centuries.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavourer to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offencesFor abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavourer to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Access to this Internet site has been blocked and logged

The Web Nazis at The Bank have been busy this weekend, adding more of the webcomics that keep me from going insane on a daily basis to their banned list.

"" is one that I can understand that they would block. It can be pretty coarse and rude at times. Well, actually, it's that way almost all the time.

"Slightly Damned" was probably blocked based solely on the name. Sure, it's about demons, but the main demon character is sort of adorable and fuzzy. Hardly a demon at all. And it's got an angel that turns into a cute, fluffy bunny.

But, come on, there is absolutely nothing offensive that you could find in "Count Your Sheep" that warrants being put on a banned list. It's a girl and her sheep. Admittedly, that sentence could be twisted into some sort of yiffing perversion but really, it's a comic suitable for all ages.

I really don't understand how they work. Plenty of non-work related sports sites are still available. Car sites. Fashion sites. All that mainstream crap is still available for employees to waste their time on, why pick on as inoffensive a webcomic as "Count Your Sheep"?

I noticed another oddity of censorship a few weeks ago. I was searching on the keyword "meatatarian" and every website was blocked. On the other hand, all the vegetarian and vegan websites were fully available. I'm feeling discriminated against because of my dietary choice.

On the plus side, they still haven't shut down "Narbonic". Shaenon Garrity just announced that all of the archives are available FOR FREE now. I spent three hours last night reading, all the time between calls during the day and skipped eating dinner tonight to get caught up. On top of that, the collected Volume 3 is out. I'll be ordering that shortly.

I have mentioned before that she is evil that way.

GerbilMaybe she'll doodle on the mailing envelope again.

I would like to give her at least partial credit (along with Phil and Kaja Foglio's "Girl Genius") for my "Mutants and Masterminds" character Brian Czitrovszky. (Session #1, #2, #3, #4) It was disappointing that the game mechanics and the GM's version of the game didn't allow for that sort of mad genius I was looking to develop. It took far to long to design and build things, the rules for IA and robots didn't mesh well and the GM was too busy masturbating with his Deadpool character to design a coherent plot in which a mad genius could prosper.

Perhaps when the Girl Genius RPG comes out. Well, probably not. I'd be the only one to buy that game and thus would be running it. Not that I don't mind running games (I ran a Rolemaster/Middle-Earth campaign for three years back in college) but I'm still pining for a good game that I can be a player character in.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


It's the mid-point of the year and the odometer on my bicycle reads 1,200 miles. With the implication of Codename V I no longer have to park at the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail in hopes of capturing him on camera. Thus, I can go back to parking in Squirrel Hill and doubling my daily commute. I may be able to get up to 3,000 miles by the end of the year.