Thursday, November 18, 2010

GM, Holidays and Roger

The markets opened with a buzz today on the IPO of GM, which is trying to liquidate its government bonded debt. I found myself with a bit of a yawn at this prospect because IPOs are for the institutional players that get first crack at buying the stock where average retailers and traders get to trade the stock after those institutions see significant spikes in the first day of trading. I noticed how this works a couple times when I attempted to get into IPOs at the open price, but the stock wasn't even available until the price shot up 15-20% from the original offering price. So I have over time shifted away from this style of investing in quick gains in favor of more long term approaches.

The holidays have returned and this year is different for me as I have not been watching as much TV as I used to do. Thus, I have been somewhat of no-mind regarding the latest toys and gadgets advertised. Yet, I cannot escape the bustling shopping fever and holiday decor that is supposed to get people in the buying frenzy that is the staple of this season. Unfortunately, or otherwise, I am feeling a bit not interested in buying gifts like I have in the past. As well, I am not really interested in putting up a bunch of decorations outside only to put them back a month later. I guess my impression of the holidays have dwindled over the years as I see what is supposed to be a beautiful time with generous attitudes about humanity turn into gluttonous materialism that promotes "ME ME ME".

This may also have some roots in the latest album that I have purchased entitled Amused to Death by Roger Waters. I have heard the album before and thought it was ok, but I was not truly listening to the work until now. As a fan of Pink Floyd, I find this better than the Final Cut and in the realm of The Wall. The album has music the uses familiar riffs and chords from Pink Floyd work as well as the familiar angst against social issues (in this case, fallacy of materialism, evangelical religious orders, and remote-controlled war). I was impressed with Jeff Beck playing a superb guitar and in a similar style that David Gilmour would play in collaboration with Waters. Thus the album sounds incredibly like what should have followed up The Wall instead of The Final Cut.

Yet, with my satisfaction with the album, the lyrics reveal what I have been thinking in terms of religion and materialism. The irony of this album is that we have to "purchase" this and many of us are guilty of the same ironies, fallacies and actions that Waters is singing. Waters tells the story in a narrative from a perspective the "monkey in the corner" and the "alien comic" that observes these traits of humanity. The idea that no matter what religion traditions teach us about love, faith or humanity, those same traditions have been bastardized by evangelicals (of any religious order) in addition to capitalist ideas that promote a superior sense. That whatever one minister proposes that God wants, God gets. From love to a "clean fight", from crusades to jihad. God especially wants money. One could almost laugh at how much people will use religion to make up stories or to justify a means that has no other logical purpose. We could laugh if we did not also see how dangerous this has made people with respect to each other (especially between different cultures). "Germans killed the Jews, Jews killed the Arabs, the Arabs kill hostages..." What we call "miraculous" is a matter of degree of perspective rather than a truly spontaneous event.

To say the least, Roger Waters does not paint a friendly picture about society, but the point is that people have allowed religious, military or political figures to define what we believe as true regardless of how accurate that viewpoint is. Given the rise of religion in American politics, that illogical social perspective is playing beyond just material interests. The speed that people are expecting results is following the trend of instant access, which some would call a miracle. We still have to decipher information, question these grand assertions and we still have to do work in order to see miracles. If we continue to use religious assertions in law, we are destined to ignore basic and fundamental truths.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Loss of judicial Independence

The shock and disbelief of losing three justices on the guise that they overstepped the bounds of the judiciary was disheartening and scary at the same time. Iowa has set a dangerous precedent for itself, and this new precedent is based upon questionable mob rule rather than the secular rule of law. We find ourselves now at a condition in the judiciary that is bound to public opinion and ability to raise money for campaigns rather than legal fairness to interpret the law.  Given the disposition of those voting against the judges, they intend to have the courts follow a more religious test to the judicial decisions regardless of the law. That is, of course, contrary to constitutional law in U.S. Constitution Article VI and its First Amendment as well as contrary to the intentions of the Founding Fathers.  The preamble of the Iowa Constitution presents an invocation to the Supreme Being, but the Iowa Constitution has these same restrictions in Article I and even goes further to limit that the court of law does not render competence based upon religious tests or opinions. Article I of the Iowa constitution is clear that “all men and women are, by nature, free and equal” which suggests that Iowa has enjoyed an equal rights provision before the federal constitution and that equality is not bound to religious opinions.
Alexander Hamilton stated in the Federalist No.78 that “the complete independence of the courts… is essential… Without this, all… rights or privileges would amount to nothing”. He further asserts that

"...independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humors … or the influence of particular conjunctures …have a tendency … to occasion dangerous innovations in the government and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community”. 

These statements argue that judicial independence is required to guard the majority from minorities (e.g. prevent mob rule from undermining the Constitution or freedoms). These assertions by one of the Founding Fathers, in defense of the U. S. Constitution, makes one wonder why Iowa constitution framers left in a retention vote at all given the constant risk of politicizing a judicial branch.
The campaign by Bob Vander Plaats and his comrades was essentially a test for Iowa voter opinion for future marriage amendment proposals as well as a referendum on the Varnum vs. Brien decision clear through the end despite some of his comments after the vote. Every single ad that was released to oppose the justices was about the gay marriage ruling in Iowa, and those ads flooded the airwaves thanks to well-funded coffers.  Every single news story that covered the retention vote referred the retention vote in terms of the marriage ruling. There was no mention of the other decisions handed down or the works that the justices have done for Iowa. Further, vile and destructive characterizations (often outright lies) of whole classes of people were used to defend the opposition to retention. The name-calling and lying was reminiscent of school taunting and name-calling (like some people never grow up and still want to bully others). We do not have to look far to see examples of how destructive this type of behavior from leadership is and how that can lead to genocides and closed societies. Only after the ruling was opposition focused upon the ill-conceived notion of “overstepping the justices’ duties”. We should examine the arguments as they will be seen again.
They argued that the justices legislated from the bench, but any time the courts strike down a provision or law, they are, in effect, “legislating” by removing a provision’s authority or legality (essentially removing a provision from the code). As well, if they recognize a right or removing obvious inequalities that had been codified unconstitutionally is protecting the provisions of constitutional that protect equality for people regardless of class. Thus, every Supreme Court justice in the nation is guilty of such action, but this is usually (as was with the Iowa Supreme Court) based upon a premise that the code is “error at law”. As well, this is a duty of the courts enshrined in the Iowa Constitution Article V and U.S. Constitution Article III. The Iowa Supreme Court in this decision reviewed the equality provisions and the non-religious tests as evidence that DOMA is inherently unequal in its writing, intent and effect before the Iowa constitution as well as the equal protection of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As well, one cannot argue that liberties and rights can be extended to animals because there is no constitutional provision that asserts any rights for animals. That is because only “persons” have equal rights as defined as “all men and women”.  
In this case, the state protections of state-recognized civil marriage could not be denied to same-gender couples. Civil marriage offers many state protections of law that are not conferred to those couples without civil marriage. The Iowa Supreme Court was clear that this did not impose upon churches to recognize civil marriages nor did they challenge church-recognized marriages. Yet, the equal protections of state-recognized civil marriages could not be denied for one couple over that of another couple regardless of the gender of that couple since “all men and women are equal, by nature”, and all laws have to be uniform in terms to all citizens and classes of citizens according to Iowa’s Article 1 section 6.  
As well, the court would not be able to force a religious viewpoint, take away gun rights or property, without due process, as these are constitutionally guaranteed. The legislature cannot compel a person to receive a particular religious blessing for a marriage of which would also engender “respecting an establishment or religion” or impede upon the freedom from being “compelled to attend any place of worship…” 
Yet, the review of constitutionality of code is rooted in the constitutionally written duties of the courts. This is the purpose of designing separate branches with separate abilities and powers. Courts can not manufacture cases in order to make a decision that becomes the law and the legislature has the power to impeach if the courts act in illegal misconduct.  This helps to prevent courts from overstepping and helps them to interpret the law, especially constitutional law, correctly regardless of public opinion or legislative interests. This is essential to what Hamilton suggests because without the ability of courts to render an unconstitutional provision as null, governments and the people can rule at the political whims without regard to the sanctity of liberties, the equal recognition of those liberties, or the constitutions themselves. The constitutions and the courts become worthless endeavors to construct a fair society of liberties. ...

Read the whole work at 

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Mac mini HTPC

I have wanted to get a Mac since they moved to Mac OS X but never did due to costs and the fact that I develop in Windows/UNIX. Apple then released their lineup of Mac mini a couple years ago and I kept thinking that would be neat to put in a home theater and I read about people doing just that.  The problem was delivering quality graphics and sound to your home theater from the Mac mini by rigging different cables up that would not support high graphics quality. With the latest iteration of Mac mini lineup from Apple, they added an HDMI port (e.g. HD quality video and audio output) and of course the nice new form factor, but they jacked the price to 700. Given that I am not planning to do much more than use it to stream media, I don't need a whole lot of computing power that I would need in a gaming device, and I don't feel like going out to buy a whole bunch of Blu-Ray discs yet. Well, I found a Mac mini for a refurbished price, and I got the base model with no upgrades. I plugged the Mac into my home theater by using the Mac's HDMI port to my Sanyo HDTV with audio cables from the TV to the receiver.

The first thing, I had to reset the TV picture to accommodate the Mac, otherwise menu bars and part of the Dashboard were not on-screen. Once I did that, I moved-copied media from my PC's iTunes library to the Mac, and then, I could start playing movies and music. I am trying the Apple Magic Trackpad and the Logitech K250 wireless keyboard and M310 wireless mouse. I am way used to having a two-button scroll mouse and may end up taking the Trackpad back to Apple. The wireless signal would sometimes be quite delayed though from either of them.  I may have to move the Mac to a more direct line with the input devices and away from the TV (possible interference).

I also downloaded the free OpenOffice and several browsers for the Mac. Yet, to do work in Office, it just didn't feel right to do "work" since I was working on the TV, but I could quickly check my Yahoo or Google accounts without much problem. I imported my Google Calendar into iCal pretty easily too. one doesn't need much computing power to run these applications. I may however attempt to do some development using the Eclipse suite or try some iPhone development.

I started by playing the Star Wars Episode III DVD and the Mac did well.  There was a little bit of graphics stuttering that I could notice though, but the graphics output was good. The sound was good as well and in sync. Then, I downloaded Karate Kid HD from iTunes, and this performed really well (no noticeable stuttering). I also downloaded the new Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and that played rather well. The next test was to watch Netflix movies streaming of which I chose Star Trek (2010) and In the Line of Fire.  These performed ok but there were noticeable graphics or network stuttering (especially for Star Trek). So streaming and DVDs seem to exhibit some graphic stuttering, but I will test more:). The Mac software for DVD and FrontRow were fun to use. I also was able to use my iPod Touch with the Apple Remote app to sift through the iTunes library.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Best Defense is No Defense

When one trains in martial arts especially the art of hapkido or aikido, the primary objective of the art is self-defense. When I was introduced to hapkido, my instructor made clear the objective of hapkido or taekwondo is NOT to be in the fight at all. He was more adamant about this idea where weapons are involved. There are several reasons for this.

1. In most attack situations, we do not know the attacker or that person's abilities.
2. In most attack situations, people are going to get hurt.
3. In attack situations with weapons, someone WILL get hurt, regardless of martial arts ability.

"Where there is no blame, there is no fight"

Objective: is not to get hurt and to get away as quickly as possible.

The question is begged of how does one defend themselves and the easiest answer is not be where the attack happens (both location-wise and physical proximity to the attack). First thing is attitude and observing where you are location-wise. Observing one's environment and being smart about realizing fixtures, lights, people, distance and simply being aware can go a long way to preventing bad situations from occurring.

Second thing is physical confrontation. If the attacker only wants money, why not hand over the wallet and save anguish, bruises, cuts or hospitals? If one gets into a confrontation, the training and skill works to avoid or deflect  attacks where one becomes like flowing water and uses the attacker's energy against them. As well, in an attack situation, the standard sparring, sport or wrestling rules do not apply because you would be in a situation to defend yourself and attempt get away as quick as possible. Even the most skilled hand has to have time execution of techniques to the appropriate recognition of the attack, and thus, the attacker has the advantage in most cases because time of reaction is simple behind the initial action.

So the answer to the questions is right mind and right action. No self-defense seminar or karate class can guarantee that you will prevent all attacks or escape without injury. Yet, if one uses the right mind and right action by observing the environment as well as considering what one says or does in company will impact whether there is an attack. If one truly means to reduce the potential for injury, then learning techniques and practicing them regularly can reduce that potential.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Introduction to Eastern Philosophies

When I started studying martial arts in 1994, I had no concept of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Feng Shui or Yoga. As I went through the study of Korean arts of taekwondo, hapkido and others, many of the ideas were suggested through the techniques we were taught. Then, I was introduced to a couple texts involving Zen, Taoism and Confucianism. I read the texts and then studied the concepts that were introduced to me. I began study of Japanese language and Japanese style martial arts (e.g. shorin ryu karate, bojistu, & samurai) in order to gain a stronger impression of these ideas. In comparison, from my study of Latin-based languages (e.g. Spanish and French), I have found that Eastern cultures view language and the world in markedly distinct ways than the American or even any of the Western cultures.

I am only a student of these philosophies and martial arts, but have gained a strong appreciation as well as advanced level of training, whereby I have become a teacher in some of these arts.

Logic of the Tao (or no-think/no-mind) and Buddhist mindful thinking (one mind)...

I have found the logic of Taoism in its simplistic manner can be complex and far reaching. The logic of Taoism is based upon ideas and concepts presented in the environment and common things we see and hear. The logic follows the basic laws of physics.

1) That for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
2) That for everything in motion, it will stay in motion.

Through observation of nature, how things are done, and the reactions to them, one begins to comprehend the ideas. The symbolism and attachment to nature presents a natural course of the physical world and our lives. Also through attachment, we find suffering because suffering is bound to our clinging to a perception of or desire for a particular reality.

Everything we do, see, hear, and say has a great impact on how we perceive the world and how people will, in turn, perceive us. (That is the essence of Buddhist ideas of karma). The Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching suggests that the elimination of unneeded elements and getting to the root of matters and concepts reveals the true reality and the truth of them to yourself as well as to those around you. We can see how each of these ideas contrast each other, but they also complement each other. They also complement the Western religious doctrines of Jesus as well as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be unto Him). Each of these are based in the fundamental idea of peace within ourselves and that peace can be achieved through discipline and prayer or meditation.

For the Tao and Buddhist, the approach to the ideas is simple and complex in the same way. This approach leads to different ways of thinking about our environment, our senses, and how we live them. For everything is connected to each other, and a natural equilibrium is the essence of the teaching (without deprivation or extravagance). To know good or pleasure, you must understand what is bad and unpleasant. Through the struggles, we find accomplishment. Through pain, we can truly comprehend joy. Our destiny and path is what we make of it. It is not the end, but the means to attain the end that become important. The Eastern philosophies suggest that one should not focus upon what is or is not because we can not control those things outside of us. We can however focus upon the present and now and thus relieve our attachments.

As Enigma sings in the song "Push the Limits", "Open your heart and push the limits". When you "open your heart" to the world, you will feel your connection to the world and be able to learn from that connection and from the world. When you "push the limits", you push the mind to believe that you can succeed in whatever you are doing. Yet, from a Tao or Buddhist perspective, one would not push the limits as we simply should release the limits as those limits are abstract attachments that we cling. Open your heart to the lessons and meditations here and allow the limits of your mind to expand beyond your current understanding, not only at face value, but meditate of the internal concepts. Breathe well, release and comprehend the relationships, the ideas, and the suggestions presented, and you may achieve peace or enlightenment.

Remember that the greatest skill comes without effort or thought.

A plant does not know how to grow, but instead just grows. ~Alan Watts


Monday, August 16, 2010

Social Media - Reputation and Defamation

For years people grew up in schools where we had to verify what we claim and we have to use our own work. If we do use other people's work, we have to cite that work instead of trying to pass off that work as one's own. When building content and material for websites and social media, we have to recognize intellectual property of others if we mean to reference them. There is more than an academic interest here, but this is a mutual trade of information. As well, referencing another source (through links or otherwise) will increase the reliability of your work as well as increase channels from which people might come to your work. In this way, prudence and faithful references can help you in addition to others.

You contribution to social media sites and web forums should always remain positive and creative. Warren Buffet has stated that it "...takes 20 years to build a reputation but only a five minutes to ruin it..." If you diligently pursue quality and positive material, your reputation will be grounded in quality and respect among peers as well as the general audience. If you conduct negativity, flames, or rants online, one will injure the reputation.

In addition, people should be careful about defamation of character as there are laws protection people from this type of behavior. Defamation is generally regarded as a making knowingly false claims about someone or causing unjustified injury or harm towards someone (e.g. causing someone to lose a job over an personal argument).

Professor Mack of Iowa State University further suggests that content on your web sites is your responsibility (even if you didn't write the material) as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 when you are an Internet Content Provider (ICP). Thus, if one allows for discussion comments, you will want to watch for defamation and libel on your site, and in your online discussions on social media.

Always consider the idea that regardless of privacy settings or attempt to delete something, once you click post or send, there is a path for that information to the public. So be smart about what you post either in blogs, status updates, or otherwise.

With that said, I ask that people hold themselves to quality standards when discussing these ideas. If you have a problem with something that is stated or posted on my sites, please feel free to contact me and I will address the issue. For the most part, I hope to facilitate a good discussion rather than have to fend off ridiculous claims.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Web site updates to come...

There are a few updates that I hope to be include in the "final" release.

1) clean up link issues.
2) smoother graphic interface.
3) mobile friendly interface.
4) integrate some older pages into the new look.
5) add more trending lists to relevant pages such as the Eastern Religions portion.
6) refactor some code.
7) finish the taekwondo pages.
8) update the backend.

I would appreciate your feedback as well!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Social Networking for Business

Internet Content Provider Issues with Social Media Networking

- Distinguish between Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Content Provider (ICP) (Title V of Telecommunications Act of 1996

- Everything posted online on your website is your content (You are an ICP)

- Opinions may be expressed vs defamation or nonfactual - malicious intent (knowingly false or reckless disregard) may have libel claims

- Everything posted or created using company technology resources is fair game for the Freedom of Information Act.

- Terms of Service Agreements must be followed by both provider and user.

- Disclaimers do not absolve responsibility

- Point of awareness is the point at which you become liable for an issue

The critical piece is to realize that people (whether the company allows internal use of social networks) still have these issues when your organizations employees go online and discuss their various issues during off hours.

Libel concerns happen as a result of someone understanding something written to be injurious or becoming aware of posted material. Anything posted on the organization’s website is the content of the organization regardless of disclaimers or TOS subjected to the users/posters of material. If something is posted and is removed, there is still a point at which someone could have seen the material. If something is posted and removed, there may be PR issues as well.

What are the employees obligations for seeing questionable material?
What are the employees expectations for online conduct? During and after hours?

Private conversations should be conducted outside of technology owned by the organization since Freedom of Information Act can be invoked on all of those discussions if they occur using company networks or computers.

With respect to this, an organization will want to decide what types of social media to use and if any should be included on its own websites (Blogs, commentary, or news feeds).

For more information, contact Davis Brown law Firm about legal questions regarding online discussions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hello World

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a content manager for new material for my web site at . The site was originally a portfolio of my web design-development work, and now the site encompasses subjects other than web design.

I hope to provide people with useful techniques and advice regarding topics (that reflect parts of my work) like web design, social networking, research, health and fitness, martial arts and eastern religions. I also hope to use this to announce updates and new features to the site as I develop more parts of this.

The attempt of the site is to aggregate useful information and to provide original information regarding some of the web design and web 2.0 services that I can provide in addition to the martial arts classes that I facilitate.

Enjoy and peace!