Thursday, May 29, 2008

I, For One, Welcome Our New Monkey Overlords

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have successfully trained monkeys to use robotic arms... with their minds.

Download Day 2008

Download Day 2008

The Mozilla Foundation, creators of the amazing Firefox browser, are attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours. “Download Day 2008,” as they're calling it, is slated to coincide with the release of Firefox 3. Here's hoping their servers can survive the onslaught!

If you haven't tried Firefox yet, the release of Firefox 3 is a good time to give it a spin. I highly recommend it.

Update: I should note, in case it wasn't clear, that Firefox 3 is not out yet. It's supposed to be released in June. Also, it seems the Mozilla Foundation is pretty much guaranteed to get the record, since according to the Guinness World Record site, no such record exists yet.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Art of Manliness

I told Gorgeous Wife the other day that I had recently started following a blog titled The Art of Manliness. Her automatic response was, “Isn't that some sort of oxymoron?” It was spoken in jest, of course, but the sentiment gave me something to think about: When did “manliness” stop being a virtue? I contend that it never did, but that the public's opinion of men and their idea of what manliness is has changed. In fact, I think most people spend so much time soaking in what society tells them about masculinity that they don't really think about how their own true feelings on the subject might differ.

Part of reason that manliness is looked down upon, I feel, rests with the feminist movement. In the laudable desire to correct wrongs against women, society has now swung the other direction and demeans men. Just as an example, how many modern sitcoms (say, in the last twenty-five years or so) regularly portray the husband as dim-witted and clueless, while his wife rolls her eyes and valiantly compensates for his idiocies? Lots of them. How many frequently show the reverse scenario? Maybe they exist, but I can't think of any. A sitcom which attempted to do so today would probably be criticized as being sexist. It seems that, as a society, we have come to believe that if you make fun of women, it's sexist, but if you make fun of men, it's humor.

The other reason that I feel that manliness is scorned today is that the accepted definition of manliness has changed. “Manliness,” for some reason, has become synonymous with machismo and boorish behavior, but this was not always so. Manliness, as it ought to be defined, is a positive trait, and is just as positive as and is complimentary to womanliness. The idea of masculinity and femininity both being positive and complimentary traits is not new; in fact, it is present in Asian philosophy and is one aspect represented by the Taoist taijitu (☯). (Not being a follower of Taoism myself, I welcome correction in phrasing from any actual Taoism adherents.)

Unfortunately, there are a lot of men who are also deluded in their understanding of the meaning of manliness, and whose behavior only reinforces the misconception. That's one reason why I was so pleased to run across the aforementioned blog. Not only does it set straight what manliness really means, it tries to help men who may have the wrong ideas about masculinity to change their behavior and stop reinforcing the stereotypes. I'd encourage the men out there (and women, too!) to take a peek at The Art of Manliness and see what it really means to be a man.

Just as an example, they've recently been doing a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues, and just a couple of days ago they did a post about the last one, humility. After the discussion of the topic, the article presented ways to practice humility in everyday life:

  1. Give credit where credit is due.
  2. Don't name/experience drop. (Don't be constantly talking about how great you are.)
  3. Do what's expected, but don't make a big deal out of it.
  4. Perform service and charity anonymously.
  5. Stop one-upping people.

If these aren't the antithesis of what is popularly considered to be masculine, I don't know what is. I was particularly amused by the video at the end that talked about one way to stop the chronic “one-uppers:” become an astronaut and walk on the moon:

Edit: Video no longer available. Bummer.

Anyway, this is my first post where I rant about a topic of any real weight, so I'd encourage you to share your thoughts. Drop me a comment.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Anyone Looking for a Condo?

So I'm moving. At least, I'm reasonably certain that I will be moving. It is, of course, dependent on my selling my current home and purchasing another one. I've got great credit and a great Realtor, so I'm pretty confident that it will happen before too long.

I think that getting a mortgage may be the most frightening thing I have ever done, and now I'm lining up for a bigger one. (“Please, sir, I want more!”) I don't deny that it's probably a good idea for us to move at this point in our lives, seeing as we're kind of outgrowing our current home, but the whole experience fills me with an irrational trepidation which I somehow twist into a more rational caution.

We aren't moving very far, by the way, in case you were worried (or maybe relieved) at the prospect of us leaving the state. We're still planning on staying in the Salt Lake Valley.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Balancing Life

My friend Camille posted in her blog about how she felt bad that she'd neglected some household duties to help a friend. She asked her readers how they take care of their responsibilities and help others. I'm no expert, but here are some thoughts:

  • Accept that you won't get everything done. There's just far too much to do in life for the time we have. This is hard for some people to do; the thought of anything being left undone grates on them. Letting go of the fantasy of “doing it all” can be difficult, but if you don't it will drive you nuts.
  • Accept that some of the things that won't get done are worthwhile. This is even harder. You might feel bad that you didn't get time to organize your sock drawer, but that pales in comparison to not being able to volunteer at the soup kitchen. There are so many worthwhile things to do that we can't do them all; we must pick the ones that mean the most to us and focus on them. Worthwhile causes will be better served by a few devoted individuals than a lot of people who are spread too thin over many different pursuits.
  • Accept that balancing priorities is difficult. Even doing your best, you will inevitably neglect something that you shouldn't. Such is life. If balancing life was easy, Stephen R. Covey would not be a millionaire.
  • Learn to say “no.” This is very hard for me. Of course, we want to be able to say “yes,” and we should when we can. But when we're asked to do something, and it just doesn't leave time to do that more important stuff on the priority list, we have to work up the gumption to say, “I'm sorry, but I just can't do that right now.”
  • Don't let one aspect of life monopolize you. We all have facets of our lives that should get attention: God, family, self, serving others. We should prioritize them, of course, but no one aspect should go completely ignored forever. For example, we sometimes tend to put off having time for ourselves indefinitely because there are more important things to do and we don't feel we can justify putting them off for “selfish reasons.” But the longer we go without recharging ourselves, the less effective we become at doing those more important things. It can be hard to say, “You know, I'm not going to [insert worthwhile activity here] because I need to take a nap or read a nice book,” but sometimes it's just what you gotta do. Yes, work before play and all that, but not to the point that you never, ever play.

On a metablogging front, I'm experimenting with comments. Feel free to leave a comment, should you feel so inclined, and please excuse any weirdness in my site template while I work it out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Promise, I Hardly Ever Do This

So I doubt that there's anyone who reads this who doesn't know me personally, but on the off chance that there is, allow me to introduce myself via the time-honored Internet tradition of answering a bunch of random questions about one's self. This particular list comes courtesy of Sister:

Do you like blue cheese?
Do you own a gun?
No, unless projectile vomiting infants count.
What flavor Kool Aid is your favorite?
Do you get nervous before a doctor appointment?
Not usually. The only time I can remember was just before getting an MRI.
What do you think of hot dogs?
Sometimes yummy, always unhealthy.
Favorite Christmas movie?
Just about every Christmas movie I've seen stinks to high heaven. So I'm gonna have to go with It's a Wonderful Life.
What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Moo juice.
Can you do push ups?
Yes, but not as many as I should.
What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
The only one I own, my wedding ring.
Favorite hobby?
No one favorite. Reading, writing software, playing computer games, playing chess and swing dancing with Gorgeous Wife, though I have little time for any of it ever since I got kids.
Do you have A.D.D.?
Riddled with it, in fact.
What's your weight?
Kinda personal for an online questionnaire, aren't we?
Middle name?
Personal again!
Name three thoughts at this exact moment.
I really should stop blogging and get back to work. I ate a bit too much for dinner. I wish I was home instead of at work.
Name three drinks you regularly drink.
Milk, water and (too much) soda.
Current worry?
When I die, will my kids know whose funeral they're attending?
Current hate right now?
Working late.
Favorite place to be?
How did you bring in the new year?
At home with a very pregnant Gorgeous Wife and our daughter (whose blogging code name I have not yet invented).
Where would you like to go?
Mexico, Puerto Rico, the UK, Italy, Hawai'i. I could come up with others if you twisted my arm.
Name three people who will complete this.
Sister already did. Camille probably will. I have very few blogging friends. *sigh*
Do you own slippers?
Gorgeous Wife's sister got me a pair a while back, and they're very effective at keeping feet warm. Too effective, in fact. Unless it's really cold, I can't wear them for very long or my feet get hot.
What color shirt are you wearing right now?
Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
Can't say I ever have, so I don't know whether I'd like it.
Can you whistle?
Favorite color?
Blue. Used to be green.
Would you be a pirate?
I'm not too big on pillaging, swilling grog, or disemboweling people, so I guess I wouldn't make a very good pirate. I do enjoy talking like a pirate, though. Matey.
What songs do you sing in the shower?
Ugh. The shower has horrible acoustics.
Favorite girl's name?
Gorgeous Wife's name, of course.
Favorite boy's name?
My son's name. (He needs a blogging code name, too.)
What's in your pocket right now?
Handses! Actually, my wallet. And a hole.
Last thing that made you laugh?
Probably my son making toothless gummy smiles.
Best bed sheets as a child?
Uh, don't remember my childhood bedsheets. Who wrote this thing, anyway?
Worst injury you’ve ever had?
Five stitches under my chin.
Do you love where you live?
It's very nice, but I'd like a standalone house better.
How many TVs do you have in your house?
Only one in active use. We have a little one that's sitting in a closet, and a portable DVD player that gets used on occasion.
Who is your loudest friend?
Probably Camille. Not that I mind. Loud friends are some of the most fun. Loud neighbors, on the other hand...
How many dogs do you have?
None. I'd like one someday, though.
Does someone have a crush on you?
Gorgeous Wife, I hope!
What is your favorite book?
No one favorite. I do enjoy J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Ken Jennings.
What is your favorite candy?
Butterfinger, Twix or Twizzlers.
Favorite sports team?
Not really a sports fan. I used to follow the Utah Jazz, before John Stockton retired.
What song do you want played at your funeral?
Probably “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.” Though what will actually get played is probably something like “Let's Get This Party Started.”