Data Troll

Musings of a database designer, right-wing constitutional anarchist and overly idealistic schmuck.

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Location: Texas, United States

A middle-aged database designer, specializing in Oracle. I have a teen-aged son and Chinese wife.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Being 'Comfortable'

I came to an epiphany while on the road the other day, one that is both enjoyable and depressing at the same time. I was in Boston for work, waiting for a shuttle bus, when I fell into conversation with an attractive young woman waiting for the same shuttle. She seemed to be in a talkative mood and we enjoyed a lively discussion of things for over a half-hour while waiting for and riding the shuttle bus. At the end of the ride, Monet (who turned out to be a Haitian-born biomedical engineer) shook my hand and we said our goodbyes.

As I walked the two blocks to the hotel, I thought that- had that happened 20-25 years ago- I certainly would have invited the young lady to join me for dinner. And then I stopped; I realized why an opportunity to enjoy such a spontaneous conversation with her would not have happened if I had been 20 or even 15 years younger. The conversation took place primarily because I have reached the ‘comfortable’ age.

What is the ‘comfortable’ age? It is that point that a young woman no longer looks at you as either a threat or a possible romantic issue and loses all social defensiveness toward you. You are no longer a threat, just someone to chat with.

It’s a little demoralizing to be so easily ‘socially harmless’, but I’ll enjoy the benefits as well; that ‘socially harmless’ state works both ways. I find it easy to chat pleasantly with a lovely lady, since I am past the stage where testosterone completely dissolves my IQ in such a situation.

It also explains my friendly relationship with a young colleague of mine, who has had problems with a husband who could easily be a finalist in the ‘Moron of the Year’ award. D. is very beautiful in appearance, but more so in personality and sweetness. She’s come to me for advice on her problems (of which I hope I’ve given her some help) and I work with her on a side project. We went to lunch with a crusty old coworker of mine also involved in the ‘side-work’ and D. seemed to really enjoy the two of us ‘greybeards’ verbally smacking each other around. I have come to realize that my ‘comfortable’ status is a big part of this easy association and I enjoy our friendship very much.

I offer this explanation for illumination to young men. If you shake your head not understanding why women like Bethany or Michelle (reasons alone to be conservative) often hang around with older guys, just realize it because those guys have reached that ‘comfortable’ stage.

But there is just enough ego left in me that wishes that I wasn’t so ‘comfortable’ around such angels. But time stands still for no man.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Five Years after the 9/11 Wake-Up Call

Five years. Five years since my overly idealistic dream- that my son would live in a world with only scattered and short-lived conflicts- died. Five years since our entire concept of the barbarous capacity of men changed. An anniversary such as this is a time of reflection- and of comparison. Only one event in American history comes close to 9/11 in terms of the American psyche; that which happened December 7th, 1941.

Comparisons of the events themselves have been extensively done. Similarities include the unprepared status of the country and leaders and the crystal clear 20/20 hindsight are all on full display in a TV movie tonight; all aspects just as prevalent in 1941 and just as bipartisan. The differences are as important; a valid military target and a strictly civilian one; the enemy we face today is even more brutal than before (though the 300,000 dead Chinese civilians in Nanking might disagree).

Where are we now is more important to consider and the best way to do that is to compare now to where we were 5 years after Pearl Harbor . In that case, the clarity of the enemy in terms of nation-states resulted in a shorter timeframe. It was also a timeframe substantially shortened by the total ferocity of the American response and the absolute unity of the country. Our enemy knew there was no shaking our resolve and no amelioration of our military’s actions to protect the enemy’s civilians. Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki; we only got two nuclear bombs built and used them both.

Also, direct action was not required for an American response then; merely supporting our enemies was enough. Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, very much in the same vein as Iraq had little to do with 9/11. Italy’s ambitions in North Africa did not conflict with U.S. interests in any regard. Yet does anyone today (even in Japan, Italy and Germany) think the world would be a better place had American vernacular included phrases like ‘misled by the administration’, ‘Roosevelt’s War’ and ‘proportional response’?

This is a different war. The enemy is far more diffuse, does not act directly through nation-states, obtains resources from diverse places, and uses weaponry that is neither specialized nor expensive. There is also no way to ‘end the war’ for most of the upper and middle ranks of the enemy; their beliefs drive them to win or die. Even thought the lower and middle ranks of the Japanese were willing to die to the last man, their leadership realized- in the end- the futility of that. You can only kill the new enemy, or imprison them for life; anything else and they will try to kill again.

Another key difference is- after 9/11- the absolute minimal impact of the war on the general population. In no time in past wars have the sacrifices for the effort been so concentrated only on those that serve and their families. In that, we are developing a highly divided society in terms of understanding and support for the costs of war and that faction that suffers the least is complaining and opposing the most. I am ashamed that most of the whining and desire to ‘switch the channel; we don’t like this’ is coming from my ‘Vietnam’ generation. But I have hope because the warfighters, who ‘get it’ and are doing a magnificent job, are from my son’s generation. In them, in the crucible of the generations-long conflict we face, is the sole hope for America and a way of life that has the envy of the world and the greatest deliverer of freedom the world has ever seen.

Considering all that is going on, I feel we have a 40-50% chance of seeing a nuclear weapon going off in an American city in the next 5-8 years. If that happens, I pray the current warfighters step up, slap some Baby Boomers upside the head, and set things right on a cultural and societal basis. Or we risk going the way of the Roman Empire and, with that, centuries of tyrannical darkness may return to the world.