December 31, 2007

Thinking out loud about the state of things

Lots of thoughts about lots of subjects, all mingled together and running through my mind; that's the reason this blog is named Randomblings from Rich. When I first started this blog, I looked up the word Randomblings on the web, and Google assured me that the word was not in use. Since then, others have used or re-invented the word, and it shows up in other web writings, at least as far as Google is concerned. I'll never know if the others who use the word came up with it themselves or if they were exposed to my blog at some point. It's just interesting to see that the word get used.

For Christmas, my wife got me a Border's gift card. With it, I bought The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Even with the 20% off coupon that I used, it looks like I overpaid. I saved $20, but apparently I could have saved 37% (see link) ordering it from Amazon. Of course, I'd have had to wait for it in the mail, or paid to have it rapidly shipped (and still wouldn't have it this morning). This train of thought leads me to the discussion of 'gotta-have-it-now' consumerism that has been discussed again here recently. Tabling that, I've already starting reading Volume I. Before buying it, even, I picked up Six Easy Pieces at the local library, which contains at least the first few chapters of the lectures. After reading the first 2 chapters, I knew I wanted the whole lecture series. Part of my resolutions for next year is to finish a few whole books, and I think I'm going to try to get all the way through Volume I at a minimum.

Was thinking about computing this morning (and I actually wanted to pick up Feynman's Lectures on Computation as well.) It seems to me that we have vast amounts of computational resources in this country that are seriously underutilized. We have huge amounts of computational power at our fingertips, and what are the most oft used applications: entertainment? Whatever happened to the hard sciences? Whatever happened to America's lead in the space race, and our technology lead in the 1960s? I'm just thinking out loud, and I can't even get to the point of what I wanted to say, other than I think we're spinning our wheels a great deal. We could develop so much more than we do. We could solve many problems with the amount of resources that we have, but we don't seem to be very efficient at it.

Plastic. I just threw away two plastic cup lids because they didn't fit my cup, but can't be reused by the next customer in line at McDonalds (my normal breakfast place seems to be closed today - excuse the fast food). What a waste. I've actually been making an effort to reuse the plastic forks/knives I get from my usual restaurant. (The fork is right here, did I throw away the knife?) Yesterday I read in an article that humans have created an island of garbage in the Pacific that has a larger surface area than Great Britain. How horrendous is that? Couldn't we collect this mess of plastic and press it into Trex or some other building material and give it to the homeless to build shelter? We haven't completely run out of land in the United States. There's thousands of acres of unbuilt land out there, and it's reasonably inexpensive. As a society, we're terribly wasteful. Of course, our capitalist ways of life further propagate our inability to do anything about it. I, for one, am not willing to give up my day job and my security to go build homes for the homeless. It would be nice if I could land a job like that, though.

As a society, though, we don't fund the things that we need to fund. We spend an awful lot of money on war, public policy. Individually, we spend increasing amounts of money on entertainment, but we don't spend much money on social issues and 'the good of the many'.

Ok, brain's empty. I've dumped enough for now.

December 27, 2007

Early New Years Resolutions

Here are some early New Years Resolutions:

1. Lose some weight. I weighed in at 210 pounds two days ago. I would like to be under 200 and even moreso below 180. Losing weight is a difficult process because I find comfort in food, and in the eating process. I feel entitled to chocolates and other junk foods, which actually do not satiate my need, but instead destroy any upward progress that I make.

2. Almost inexorably linked to the weight issue, I need to get in better shape. I am easily winded, and my heart races at simple tasks. Swimming alone isn't going to get me in the shape I should be in, and I really need to start some cardio exercise, and then set some goals for myself. I need to do this to grow some more blood vessels in and around the heart to strengthen it for my oncoming age.

3. Read 4 books cover to cover. I buy a lot of books, but I almost never read them all the way through. Something is always distracting me. I want to finish 3 non-fiction and one fiction book this year, at a minimum. It's not like I don't have candidate books; I have a library full of them in my bookshelves.

4. Write more often. I should write daily on my blog, but I don't. I need to make it more of a habit, even if it's nonsense and not fully expounded ideas. Only with more writing will I exercise that part of my mind. I think my aphasia is probably related to not having to communicate ideas as often as when I was younger. By forcing myself to communicate more, perhaps I can exercise the language areas of my mind more.

5. Submit at least one short story to a publication. I need to write and submit at least one short story. This is a personal goal that I will never realize if I don't set limits for when to accomplish it. This needs to be my year.

More to come, but 5 is enough for now.

December 11, 2007

How to Lose $1000 in Sales

Dear Best Buy (and readers). On Friday evening, the hard drive on my laptop went bad. Bad Sectors, unreadable clusters, a repair that took 20 hours to get 20% through the repair process, a failed recovery, a dead laptop... Too bad for me, but is this an opportunity for someone else? I practically sleep with my laptop by my side. When given the opportunity to buy new or repair old, I am the consumate American; I buy new.
The advantage of a brick and mortar store is not lost in the online world. The one thing that Amazon.Com,, Dell.Com and the myriad of other online stores cannot deliver is the ability to take my hard earned cash from my hand and deliver the goods to me today, now, immediately.... So, until they can do this, my impulse purchases are pretty much relegated to going to Best Buy, CompUSA (so long, I hardly new ye!), Circuit City (should they ever decide to sell useful products instead of the cheap selection they carry instead), and other brick-and-mortar stores. So, off I went to Best Buy. There are two near where I live. I visited one and looked through their laptop selection. They had the perfect model for the perfect price...$999 for a latop with a 17" widescreen, 250GB HD space, Blu-Ray reader, 8400M GS graphics card, Intel Core 2 Duo (5450, but still...the price!). It was an Acer, a manufacturer that I have been happy with to date.
Unfortunately, the brick-and-mortar failed to deliver. They didn't have any in stock, and would not sell the display model. However, they claimed the other store had 2 of them in stock, and that I could go there. Hrmmm, I didn't appreciate the trip, but the other store was reasonably on the way I went, cash literally in hand.
As I am not writing to you from a new laptop, you should have already guessed that I was failed by two separate Best Buys on that day. In fact, their computer showed that they had two of the model in stock, but they could not find them. The manager recalled having just sold one of the three he had, but had absolutely no idea where to find the other two. They told me that I could buy another model, but to meet my needs (mostly the graphics card selection), the closest model would be $1499, $500 more than I had expected to spend buying the one I wanted. They told me that I could order it, and they would have it delivered, but the magic of the moment was gone. If I'm going to order something, I might as well just order the parts needed to repair my old laptop; and that is exactly what I did when I got home. I ordered a faster and larger hard drive for my old laptop.
If brick and mortar stores are willing to give up their competitive advantage of landing a sale and delivering the product IMMEDIATELY to their customers, they don't deserve to stay in business. Perhaps I'm too discerning a customer for them. Perhaps my demands for a laptop whose graphics core didn't suck was too much for their expectations, with what's good enough for 80% of their audience being enough to pay the rent on their stores.
One of these days online retailers will figure out a way to meet the needs of the impulse buyer, and shoppers like me will flock to them instead of driving to the local stores. I can't wait, myself, and I'm still sitting on $1000 that I didn't spend at Best Buy that day.

December 01, 2007

I passed! I passed! I passed!

I passed my CISSP exam that I took back in October. I've already got someone who will be verifying my experience to ISC^2, so I should have my CISSP certification by next week (provided they're caught up with processing). It feels really good to have passed the exam!!! Like many other candidates, I walked out of the exam room with a feeling between "maybe" and "no way". The test was not like I expected it to be at all, and just knowing the material was only part of the battle to get through all 250 questions. When I walked in, I thought I'd be able to quickly knock it out, and I ended up taking twice as long as I expected.
I'm still not happy about having had to wait, but I'm extremely glad the wait is over and that I don't have to go through that again!