Bruce Momjian

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Thoughts All the Single Ladies

Saturday, December 29, 2012

This interesting article explains the romantic challenges for women in a changing economy.

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Thoughts What Isn't for Sale?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

This article explores the unsettling aspects when everything is controlled by capitalist forces.

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Technology Why Innovation Won't Save Us

Friday, December 21, 2012

This thought-provoking article argues that future innovation opportunities are limited, and hence our expectation of ever-brighter outcomes needs to be adjusted. Its argument is that innovations started in the late nineteenth century (electricity, internal-combustion engine, running water) and carried through to electronics, computerization, and the Internet are historically unparalleled and unlikely to continue.

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Community Burning Question: Air Blowers or Paper Towels?

Monday, December 3, 2012

This article explains the cleanliness effectiveness of various bathroom options. Glad the air blowers didn't do well. Some of the blowers that blow air on both sides of your hands to pull water off your hands are quite effective — not sure why these were not mentioned.

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Thoughts When the Fighting Stops

Monday, December 3, 2012

This article explains the complex adjustments experienced by people returning from combat duty.

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Transportation When Men and Cars Were Truly Bonded

Monday, December 3, 2012

This article explores how people today no longer have a personal attachment to their cars, like they did in the past.

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Thoughts What that Concession Speech Really Means

Friday, November 9, 2012

With the election over, this illuminating article voices a hypothetical internal monologue during a concession speech.

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Technology Sony, Panasonic, Sharp Symbolize Japan's Decline as Electronics Hub

Monday, November 5, 2012

After persistent failures, Japan's electronics giants are stumbling — Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp are all experiencing serious financial challenges, with Sharp raising "serious doubts" about its ability to survive. This comment clearly explains the shift to more nimble South Korean electronic manufacturers, like Samsung and LG.

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Thoughts Obama Reelection Challenges

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two interesting articles recently appeared about possible Obama reelection problems. The first article explains the three challenges for anyone seeking reelection, and the second article questions if Obama is tired of the job, considering his record of getting bored with his employment.

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History A Gorgeous Photographic Elegy to the Last Great Steam Train

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This article has great photos of the decline of the steam engine in Virginia.

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Community Hard Unemployment Truths About 'Soft' Skills

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This Wall Street Journal article explains that it is often deficient "soft" skills that keep people unemployed.

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Thoughts How Long Can Muslim Insults Continue?

Monday, September 24, 2012

The video Innocence of Muslims has generated a lot of press and protests — this Wikipedia article has all the details. The film cost perhaps USD $100k to produce, and clearly has dubbed-in dialog twisted into Muslim insults. A full-length film might not even exist (script), but the trailer was designed to press every Muslim hot button possible.

The movie trailer has generated many protests, but the scary thing is that it took only one person to produce. What if more people do this? What if 52 people a year decide to do produce material insulting Islam, either as movies, cartoons, books, or articles — there could be an insult every week. Would the Muslim world go into continual protest? They certainly could not silence it.

Just as modern weapons act as a force multiplier, allowing a single individual to cause more damage than ever before, so the Internet is acting as an insult multiplier, with no end to the insults in sight. I think the Internet is eventually going to force an adjustment in how these Muslim groups react to insults.

As I said before, these protest groups are a minority in the Muslim world; this video explores their limited extent.

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Technology Coax Is Amazing

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Coaxial cable (coax) is an amazing transport medium. I mentioned earlier that I cancelled my television cable service because we rarely watch television. However, my wife's aunt who lives with us watches television often, so I installed a digital television adapter box to allow her to view broadcast television. However, the antenna I purchased was unsightly and required positioning in front of a window.

The antenna uses a coax cable to connect to the digital television adapter, and my house has coax cable throughout. I wondered if I could move the antenna to the third floor, where it would get a stronger broadcast signal, and use the coax to send the antenna signal to her television. It wasn't clear to me if coax could efficiently transmit an antenna signal instead of a cable television signal, but testing verified it could transmit a much stronger signal than we could receive with the antenna on a lower floor. The second challenge was to see if the antenna could feed more than one television, and it turns out it can feed my LCD television just fine.

The third challenge is that I wanted to switch my LCD television (used for Netflix, etc.) and a desktop computer we have hooked up to the television to use wired networking. They were using wireless networking, but they often consumed too much of the available bandwidth (article). I purchased a ethernet to coax adapter kit, and found that the kit easily transmits an antenna signal while allowing wired networking on the same coaxial cable — truly an amazing feat.

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Community Twilight Of the Left

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This article does a good job of explaining the philosophy behind progressive/left politics.

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Flight Do Our Gadgets Really Threaten Planes?

Friday, September 7, 2012

This interesting article explains the ridiculousness of prohibiting electronic devices on plans.

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Humor No Reservations: Iceland - Special Edition

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I am half-way through watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations television show Netflix. (2012 will be the last season.)

The funniest episode was director-cut commentary of the Iceland episode in the series. While the full video is not available online, there is a nice 5-minutes summary. Someone also wrote a good critique of the episode.

Update: This Q&A video of Anthony was very interesting. 2013-07-26

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Community Chris Christie at the RNC

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke at the Republican National Convention this week, but what drew my attention was his introductory video — rarely do I see such a humble, self-effacing politician.

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History Hitler and the False Lure of More Is Better

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This article about the perils of Nazi Germany's centralized economic planning has a perceptive introduction:

Economists cannot know what is "better." They can only know what is "more." They have numbers. They can count. They can add up "more." As for "better," they have no idea. So, in their little minds, more is better.

That is the thinking that has driven the profession … and much of the world economy … to absurdity. Throughout the last 50 years, more looked so much like better, no one worried too much about the difference. More cars. More houses. More food. More gadgets. What was not to like?

But the cost was more debt. And by the 21st century the burden of debt had become so great that the system could no longer move forward.

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Thoughts Atheism on the Rise Around the Globe

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This article references a poll that shows a strong increase in reported atheists around the world, though the change might simply be that people are increasingly comfortable being labeled as atheists. There are interesting statistics about which countries have the highest percentage of reported atheists (China, Japan, Czech Republic, France), and the lowest (Ghana, Nigeria, Armenia). My sermon from two weeks ago addressed the topic of atheism.

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Technology What Happened to Silicon Values?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This interesting article explains the changes in Silicon Valley business focus over the past 50 years. A comment by Susanna King explains it well:

It's not just Silicon Valley, it's everywhere. This is the modern-day business model: the shareholders are the customer and the customers are the product.

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Thoughts Can We Declare the War on Terrorism Over?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This article starts with a profound statement:

This week terrorism continued its descent from the greatest, scariest threat known to man to its proper place in the order of things: A bloody tactic that is as old as man and that is declining in frequency as most other forms of violence are.

and goes on to say:

The decade since 9/11 was the longest ten-year stretch without a major terrorist attack on US soil since the 1960s as $1 trillion was poured into various initiatives.

After quoting many powerful statistics, the author makes a strong case that it is time for the country to focus on something more important than counter-terrorism.

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Technology T-Mobile's Value Plans

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

With Verizon announcing (summary) fewer low-cost wireless options, and having left Verizon over cost, I thought I would mention my happiness with T-Mobile. I moved to them 18 months ago because adding Matthew to my Verizon plan was prohibitively expensive.

I chose T-Mobile's per-month Value plan, which was very cost-effective, but doesn't give discounts on phone purchases. Because I already owned three Android phones (as gifts from Google), and because I can always purchase Android phones on Amazon, that wasn't a problem, and the per-month savings were significant.

When my one-year discount expired, I asked about T-Mobile plans, and was quoted a two-year contract of USD $80/month that gives three phones 1000 voice minutes to share, unlimited text messages, two gigabytes of data per phone (with reduced speed beyond that), and free tethering. As much as I liked Verizon's cellular coverage, it just isn't cost-effective for me. I am glad to be with T-Mobile, and enjoy their exellent customer service as a bonus.

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Technology The X10 Crisis

Monday, June 4, 2012

I use X10 devices for home automation, and have written two presentations about its use. The company producing most X10 devices is going into receivership (article, with comments), which will serverely limit the availability of X10 devices in the future. There are other X10 suppliers, but they are much more expensive.

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Thoughts Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

Saturday, June 2, 2012

An article (summary) reporting Obama ordered the Stuxnet virus attack on Iran's nuclear program includes this quotation:

Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade.

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Technology Clean Your Computer Immediately

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

As someone who blows out all his servers and laptops with air semiannually to prevent them from misbehaving, I was glad to see this article recommending the practice.

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ThoughtsSecret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This article explains some of the mystery of Obama's anti-war campaign rhetoric combined with his strong national defense actions as president. Some of the quotes are telling:

And Mr. Obama's ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.'s strikes drive American policy there, saying "he didn't realize his main job was to kill people," a colleague said.

"Once it's your pop stand, you look at things a little differently," said Mr. Rizzo, the C.I.A.'s former general counsel.

Part of the reason Obama is not getting the same objections George Bush got is that Obama entered office with such different expectations, a "Nixon in China" quality that allows a president to make cross-party changes easier, similar to Clinton's major Welfare benefit reductions.

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Thoughts Women and Houses

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I loved this quote from an Atlantic article:

There are certain things about women that men will never understand, in part because they have no interest in understanding them. They will never know how deeply we care about our houses — what a large role they play in our dreams for ourselves, how unhappy their shortcomings make us. Men think they understand the way our physical beauty — or lack of it, or assaults on it from age or extra weight — preys on our minds, but they don't fully grasp the significance these things have for us. Nor can they understand the way physical comforts or simple luxuries — the fresh towel or the fat new cake of soap — can lift our spirits.

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Technology LED Bulbs

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I have been looking for a way to replace my R40 ceiling bulbs since I moved into my house in 2002. Traditional R40 bulbs have the problems of high energy use and significant heat output. Compact fluorescent bulbs solve the heat problem, but they are slow to fully illuminate, and only expensive ones are dimmable.

LED bulbs have become popular, but many are not true flood bulbs, which causes light and dark areas in a room. This LED bulb, available only at Home Depot, uses a plastic lens to provide a full flood and dimmable bulb. I am now replacing almost all of my R40 bulbs with these LED bulbs.

Update: This article explains the benefits and problems of LED bulbs; odd that the bulbs I purchased have none of these problems (directionality, blue-tint).

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Thoughts How Green Is Green?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

This article about Walmart's ecological push in China asks a question few pro-environmental people want to ask:

As I roamed through Walmart stores, visited factories, traipsed around co-op farms, and listened to corporate executives in China, I found myself pondering a question that I couldn't get out of my mind, but that had little to do with Walmart's immediate success in China or the world: However smart, prescient, and successful Walmart's sustainability efforts actually turn out to be, just how "sustainable" is the whole bloody global-retail proposition that lies at the heart of the company's amazing progress? Maybe Walmart's new initiatives will pencil out in a business sense for the company and, within the terms of the current retail game, even serve as a model of good environmental stewardship. But will the hyperactive retail-consumption model that it has pioneered for global consumers pencil out for the world?

"Yeah, I worry that people will read my book and think that I have drunk the Kool-Aid," says Edward Humes, reflecting on his admiring study of Walmart's green progress. "When I started, I didn't imagine I would be convinced that Walmart was green. And actually, they are not green, but they are a lot better than they were. And the efforts they are making are influencing not only their suppliers, but other businesses as well. Now Walmart is acting something like a private regulator. Nonetheless, the nature of their outsourced business model is not, ultimately, sustainable. But," he says, laughing at the irony of what he is about to say, "we have created a situation where crazy-sounding things make sense."

Being more efficient is fine, but improving efficiency by 20% really doesn't address the huge environmental impact of almost everything we do. Improving efficiency might feel good, but does it have any significant impact? "Ever little bit helps", I am sure some say, but when huge amounts of energy are intertwined with almost everything we do and buy, "a little bit" really is little, and we are fooling ourselves to think otherwise.

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Thoughts Al Qaeda Is in Tatters

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This article persuasively argues that Al Qaeda is in profound decline.

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Flight Airline Merger Could Adversely Affect Philadelphia International Airport

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Philadelphia International Airport currently enjoys a great number of non-stop flights to many destinations, but that might change. Last week's announcement of a possible hostile takeover bid of American Airlines by US Airways could adversely affect flight volume at Philadelphia International Airport.

Right now, US Airways carries 70% of airport passengers at Philadelphia International Airport. However, American Airlines already has a hub at JFK International Airport, and a merged carrier would likely consolidate northeast traffic at a single airport, probably JFK. Can't happen? Consider how US Airways drastically reduced flights at Pittsburgh's airport in the mid-2000's, moving flights to other hubs. The same could happen to Philadelphia. If it does happen, the only hope would be that another large airline would designate Philadelphia as one of its hubs. This article suggests that the merger might increase international flights at Philadelphia, though I fail to see how.

Update: The US Justice Department is trying to block the merger. 2013-08-13

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Transportation New Briefcase

Thursday, April 12, 2012

After using the same Coach brown leather briefcase for over fifteen years, I have purchases a new Coach black, slightly-thinner briefcase. Thin briefcases are hard to find and even my old one, at three inches, was too thick. I had it monogramed at a store where I bought some luggage and even the salespeople admired it, so it was probably a good choice.

Update: I had problems with the briefcase latch not staying engaged, and a replacement briefcase had the same problem, so I have returned it for a refund. 2013-01-21

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Community Santorum Suspends Presidential Campaign

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I always liked Rick Santorum's campaign and values, but this video of him announcing his campaign suspension was remarkable — nice touch announcing it in the historic town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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Community Four Days of Church

Monday, April 9, 2012

I went to church for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil (Saturday), and Easter. I think this was the first time I attended church all four days during Holy Week. The Easter Vigil was rough, meaning I would not have done well praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Community Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Related to my previous blog entry about the super-rich, this article talks about the challenges faced by middle-class workers in a new global marketplace.

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History How Christian is Christmas?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It might seem to be an odd question to ask if Christmas is Christian. Certainly the name has "Christ" in it, but there are many aspects of Christmas that are not related to Christianity (video):

So, what's left? Well, the star on the Christmas tree represents the Star of Bethlehem, and the nativity obviously represents Jesus's birth. Christianity certainly gives the holiday a special meaning that it would not have as a simple pagan holiday. Some Christians complain that commercialism take the Christ out of Christmas, but you could argue that Christ was never really part of it. In fact, some Christians considered Christmas a pagan holiday and didn't celebrate it.

Let's not even talk about Easter and the Easter Bunny.

Update: Another summary 2013-12-27

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Technology Replacement Therapy

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article explains that, sometimes, electronics can't wear out fast enough.

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Thoughts How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article explains that giving children too many choices and insulating them from failure can cause long-term problems.

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History Leave Those Kids Alone

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article covers the changing experince of childhood over the years.

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Community The Tyranny of Defense Inc.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article explains why defense spending is insatiable.

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Community The Rise of the New Global Elite

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This sobering article explains that the gap between ordinary citizens and the super-rich is growing, and that the super-rich have more in common with the super-rich in other countries than they do with people in their own country.

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Community The End of Men

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article from 2010 convincingly argues that the economic downturn, which has heavily diminished employment in traditionally male-dominated industries, will significantly impact traditional marriage roles. It also suggests that this is not a short-term shift but a larger employment change that will have lasting impact on traditional gender roles.

One thing not covered in the article is that we have been here before — during World War II, women held a high percentage of jobs, but once the war ended, there was strong societal pressure for them to relinquish their jobs to the returning soldiers, and it ushered in a very pro-wife-in-the-home culture, i.e. the 1950's.

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Technology Digital Sabbath?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This article suggests the value of taking a regular break from technology use.

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Technology Internet Parental Controls

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I am sometimes asked how to block inappropriate content from home and business networks. There is complex software that can be installed on every computer, but the simplest, most flexible, and complete solution is to block inappropriate web sites at the time their internal addresses are retrieved, a process called DNS lookup. This method filters all Internet devices on the network, and cannot be easily disabled.

OpenDNS has a service that blocks inappropriate content by making its own DNS service be used for all network lookups. It is enabled by logging into the network router and changing the DNS settings to point to their IP addresses. Once you do that, you have the ability to block access based on 56 criteria.

The service is free, but there is also a premium service for USD $20/year. Because most homes and small businesses are assigned dynamic IP address that change occasionally, it is suggested that you install a program on one of your computers so that when your IP address changes, OpenDNS will be informed so you can always access your administrative console.

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Arts Periodic Table of Typefaces

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I blogged previously about my interest in typesetting. I found this creative font sample poster (large format) made to look like the chemical periodic table. The poster has been produced in various formats.

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Arts Coal

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I just finished watching the television series Coal (trailer, review) on Netflix. The series gives an accurate feeling for the hard life of coal mining, including the claustrophobia.

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ThoughtsCosta Concordia Captain: Symbol of the Era?

Monday, January 23, 2012

This article suggests that the problems with the Italian cruise ship symbolizes a larger problem of the lack of moral leadership (four deceptions).

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