I was first introduced to computers in 1986 in Japan. In an odd turn of events that can really only happen in Japan, I got a job that required me to know Macintosh computers. I was given a Mac Plus with a 20 megabyte serial hard drive. Since then I have owned a number of Macs. Through the 90’s when the Apple product line was a complete disaster I bought Macs. In my house today there are four Mac , three iPads, four iPhones (2 of them iPhone 5s) in daily use. For years I have managed my music and video collection in iTunes and my photos in iPhoto. I am the only one in my family that does not still use an @mac.com email address, although smittie@mac.com does still land in my inbox. For twenty five years I have been a proud, self professed Apple fan boy.

Steve Jobs was the visionary and guiding force of Apple. Steve was the reason that Apple products were different. Steve made things insanely great. Without Steve Jobs, Apple needs to find some one else who is crazy enough to provide the vision and design that differentiates Apple products. As evidenced by the Apple Maps debacle and the recent iTunes makeover, Tim Cook is not the man to do that nor has he yet managed to put a team in place that can. Apple Maps is terrible. The new iTunes looks like something Microsoft would release, the user interface now a convoluted mess. Professor Peter Morici very accurately defines the problem that Apple faces in this article.

When I joined Roku (you’ve seen Roku3, right?) two years ago, I asked if I could get a Unix based computer instead of the standard Windows laptop. They told me to pick one out, they would order it. I had used Linux before and wanted to support the Linux community so I looked for a system that came pre-installed with a Linux distro. I discovered System76. I ordered a Meerkat which has worked out really well. It came with Ubuntu 10.04 installed. My computing life was wonderful. With Ubuntu 11.04 and the Unity interface (which I still hate), I switched to Kubuntu. This was a real ah-ha moment. The KDE user interface is elegant, fun and kool. I enjoyed using it. Even more than I enjoyed using Mac OSX.

For a long time Open Source software offered a free alternative to commercial software but it came at a cost. It was typically more complicated to install, never quite completely compatible and always a lot uglier to use. OpenOffice was, and possibly still is, the typical example. It does work. It does offer the basic Office components. The user interface is ugly and under-developed. The functionality offered in the spreadsheet is short of Excel et al. Calligra offers an elegant, functional free open source solution that, so far, seems very plausible as an Office suite replacement. LibreOffice puts an elegant face on OpenOffice and improves the functionality making it a very viable replacement to Microsoft Office. In the graphic design world Inkscape replaces Adobe’s Illustrator. Krita is a digital paint program that replaces Corel Paint or Adobe Photoshop. Open Source software has matured to the point that I think it is completely viable as an alternative to the Apple/Microsoft/Adobe commercial software. The communities that have built up around these open source products are knowledgable, helpful and friendly. And the software is free.

My wife’s next computer will be a System76 Wild Dog Performance. My next computer will be a Lemur Ultra. The cases are not as nice as Apple’s hardware but I like the software better than what Apple has been producing lately and I definitely like the price a lot better. For my next smart phone, I am looking at Google’s Nexus 4. $300 to own an unlocked phone with no contractual obligations to any carrier. And if I get deployed again, it will work there too.

I used a number of geeky gadgets for running over the past year. I started the year using a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch with heart monitor. It worked well but I did not really like the user interface on the watch during my runs. The small screen real estate makes it a challenge to layout the display of information. The watch eventually stopped recharging. Garmin wanted $75 to look at the watch. I thought that was motivation enough to look at alternatives.

The Runkeeper iPhone app was the most popular run tracker app. My daughter was already using it so I tried it. For free. And never looked back. I now carry my iPhone with me in my hand when I run. A lot of folks I talk to do not like that idea. However, Runkeeper has a really good dashboard that shows distance, time, and average pace, the information I want most during the run. When the run is complete, the Runkeeper app uploads the data to the Runkeeper web site which provides tools for tracking your running (as well as walking or biking) over the long term. Runkeeper app on the iPhone replaced the Garmin Forerunner. For Christmas, I got a Wahoo Blue HR Heart Rate Strap which integrates with the Runkeeper app so that I can monitor heart rate during my run again. Great set up.

More recently, I’ve been trying a new iPhone app, iSmoothRun. iSmoothRun has some features that I really like. The dashboard is layed out better than RunKeeper with larger text that is easier to read on the run. iSmoothRun exports to more web sites include raw data to Dropbox. iSmoothRun has an Recovery Heart Rate calculation function – which they call HRR – that I really like. However, after several uses I have found iSmoothRun quirky and not as reliable as RunKeeper. iSmoothRun user interface is a bit confusing, getting things turned on or off. Using the HRR calculator requires turning on the auto-pause feature, stopping long enough to trigger auto-pause, and then going into settings and turning on HRR. The HRR does not appear in the settings list unless you are auto-paused during a run. And apparently, you have to do this sequence each run. Why can I not just tell iSmoothRun, always calculate HRR? And why isn’t HRR labelled correctly as Recovery Heart Rate (RHR) rather than misusing the Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) abbreviation incorrectly?

So, my currently geeky gadgets for running are Runkeeper running on a iPhone 4S connected to a Wahoo Blue HR Heart Rate Strap. My run data is uploaded to my RunKeeper Profile but you will need to sign up for your own Runkeeper account to view any details.


Here we are, 2013. The Mayans are embarrassed or, western European/American anthropologists do not really understand the Mayans.

A year ago I published my New Year’s resolutions here. I managed to keep one of the three. Sort of. Posting a blog entry once a week was the first resolution to go by the way side. I managed to keep it for two weeks. Reading through the Bible in a year lasted a little longer. I got to about the middle of Numbers before I finally gave up altogether. Getting that far happened in fits and starts. I would still like to get through the entire Bible but I suspect I will not manage to do it in a year.

Which brings us to the the partial success. In the blog entry I said I would run 350 miles but when I made the Runkeeper goal entry, it became 300 miles. Which became the goal that I began striving toward. I totaled 330.6 miles last year. Funny story. Once I decided to run in 2012, I ran 5 miles a day for five days straight. My knees hurt, my feet hurt, my legs hurt so bad I could not sleep. I was sure that I would need knee surgery and never be able to run again. Went and talked to a running coach, replaced my old, broken down running shoes and adopted a more sensible training plan. By the summer I was running 10 miles at 9 minute pace with no problems. Goals for 2013. I want to run 500 miles this year. I am hoping to get to running 5 miles a day, five days a week by midsummer.

And, we will see how blog postings go this year.


Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

This is essentially a bail out to compensate for a California State legislature that is incapable of doing its job. The State of California operates at a $13 billion deficit because the state legislature spends money it does not have. This is a symptomatic fix to a systemic problem. In 2010 the California state legislature enjoyed a 9% approval rating, yet California voters turned out not a single incumbent. Not one.

The state legislature needs to understand that you can only buy goods and services that you have the money to pay for. They need to understand that given limited fiscal resources, you have to prioritize spending. Voting for temporary tax increases while the state legislature continues to spend with complete abandon is to facilitate behavior that is counter to the best interests of Californians.

I am voting no on prop 30

Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

As I see it, prop 31 implements measures to force fiscal responsibility. I understand the opponent’s arguments that it is not a perfect solution but I also note that most of the opponents have a financially vested interest in the current state budget. A $13 billion deficit is not going to be easy to address. Left to their own initiatives, I do not believe the California State government is capable of it. The proposition does increase the power of the governor’s office but not beyond what, at least to me, seems reasonable. The governor has to power to cut budgets but only during fiscal emergencies. Do not want the governor to get that power, don’t allow fiscal emergencies to develop. Pretty simple, really. Brinksmanship suddenly becomes distasteful.

I am voting yes on prop 31

Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.

The union’s argument against prop 32 assumes that the current playing field is level. That individuals, corporations, unions all have fair and equal influence on the political system. I do not believe this is true. I think, have long thought that unions have an advantage. I think that unions first represent unions, then the members of those unions. Unions are first about self preservation, members are second. Unions provide a lot more influence than just dollars. Unions hold persuasive power over their members that corporations do not. Unions can deliver votes. Unions also deliver campaign workers. Union influence in the American political system is significant beyond simple cash contributions.

I might feel differently if this were a right to work state and people actually had a choice about joining the union. In many occupations they do not, teachers, public safety, airlines just to cite a few examples. If you do not like the politics that the union is promoting you do not have the option to leave the union without leaving your occupation. Or losing your benefits.

Nothing prevents the unions from forming SuperPACs and participating in the political process the same way corporations do. If the union members agree with the union’s political endeavors, they can sign up to make an automatic payroll contribution to the PAC, much the way some industry employees do now. That would put the political influence of the unions in the hands of its members and allow those members to make their own decisions about how their money is used.

I am voting no on prop 32.

Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Companies. Prices based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.

As I understand this proposition it will create greater competition between auto insurance carriers by allowing them to compete on price for consumers. The current rules provide an advantage to the company that currently has the individual’s business. Increased competition is good for the consumer. The primary argument against this proposition is essentially that individuals who opt to discontinue coverage for more than 90 days will pay a penalty upon re-entry. However, that might also be stated this way. All drivers should be penalized so that those individuals who opt not to have auto insurance are not. I would like to see greater competition among auto insurance companies.

I am voting yes on prop 33.

Proposition 34: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute

This is about money, pure and simple. The death penalty is too expensive and I do not think that the process can be revised to make it economical. While I do believe that there are some crimes for which the perpetrator should die, I can find no argument that reasonably justifies the expense of the death penalty.

Scholarly Articles on the death penalty published in Loyola Law Review.

I am voting yes on prop 34

Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Human trafficking and sex slavery are horrible injustices that should be fought at every opportunity. This proposition does not add anything of substance to that fight. It does increase costs to the state budget which is already out of control. Victims’ advocacy groups are critical of the law. Education in human trafficking and sex slavery is already required at the federal. I know this because I have to complete a course on it every year for the Army.

I am voting no on prop 35

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Again, it is about budget. I think the Three Strikes Law is a good idea. However, I do believe the state of California can continue to afford incarcerating everyone who gets convicted three times. Thus, it makes sense that we should apply the three strikes rule more vigorously to those who commit serious or violent crimes.

I am voting yes on prop 36.

Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

I am just short of militant about pure food. I adamantly believe that GMOs should be labeled. 37 will not deliver that in any kind of effective measure. Just because companies like Monsanto are against it does not make it a good law. It is important to also look into who is backing it and why.

San Francisco Chronicle Editioral.

I am voting no on prop 37.

Proposition 38: Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

The California education system needs a ground up overhaul to improve effectiveness and efficiency. The state legislature needs to step up and do its job of deciding what the state is going to fund and how. Managing the budget for the state’s education system through complicated and competing ballot propositions is damning condemnation on those elected as law makers to the state legislature. They are the ones that should be figuring this out. Continuing to fund a bad system is not a good answer.

I am voting no on prop 38.

Proposition 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

I was originally intending to vote yes on prop 39. In researching this blog entry. I changed my mind. California desperately needs to increase revenue as well as cut costs. That is the only way it is going to reduce and eliminate its $13 billion budget deficit. While this proposition would close a loop hole in the tax code and increase tax revenue by an estimated $1 billion, it then also dictates that money be spent on green energy and education. Spending on green energy has been a fiasco in my opinion, with Solyndra as its poster child. But more to the point, given California’s current and ongoing budget crisis, I do not think the state can afford this kind of directed spending.

Californians need to demand that its legislators finally show up to work and do their job. They also need to provide the resources in an unfettered manner to get that job done. I believe that the state and the country is ill served by those who use the ballot to promote their favorite issues. Life and its governance is complicated and cannot be reduced to pursuit of single concerns. There are a plethora of issues and problems facing California today. Green energy does not deserve special funding in the face of the current budgetary issues this state faces.

I am voting no on prop 39.

Proposition 40: Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

It started with proposition 11 in 2008, proposition 20 in 2010 and now, what we should hope will be final approval with prop 40. This process takes control of the political districts out of the hands of the party in power in the state legislature and puts it in the hands of an independent committee. This is not a perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Passage of Proposition 11
Redistricting Committee FAQ

I am voting yes on prop 40.

In 2001 I bought a townhouse. The plan was, based on conventional wisdom of the time, to be a ‘stepping stone’ to a single family dwelling more consistent with what I imagined I would raise my kids in. Given that I never honestly expected to own a house, I was pretty excited about all this. Given the trajectory of real estate values at that time, it seemed reasonable I might be able to afford a modest home somewhere in the area. The operative word being modest.

In 2007 I put the townhouse on the market. If I managed to get something close to what units in the complex were going for I would have been in pretty good shape. Able to buy a fairly decent single family house in an area we liked better. About two weeks after the house got listed, the mortgage crisis started to break. That was August of ’07. The realtor convinced me to keep the house on the market until February of 08. When we finally took it off the market, I wondered if we would even be able to get enough to cover the mortgage. From there, the prices of units in the complex went into free fall. Now, units purchased for $400,000 with $100,000 in upgrades are selling for half that in short sales. Most of the buyers are investors who rent the units out which further depresses the property values in the complex.

Compared to many people, I am fortunate. I have a good paying, stable job so I can make my payments. The house is big enough that my family can all live there. It is a good thing we are a close knit family, 1100 square feet is not a lot of space for four adults. No garage.

I made certain that I bought only what I could afford. When I refinanced in 2004, the mortgage brokers were flogging Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM). I had a hard time finding someone who would put me in a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. However, at the time consumers were being told that interest rates were the lowest they had been in 40 years. It made no sense to me to get an ARM which would put me in the position of having to refinance again, presumably when interest rates were no longer at their lowest. Little did I know that the rules were being manipulated.

My frustration is this. I played by the rules and with integrity. I sought wise advice and followed it. Now, I am stuck with a property I no longer want, making rather huge payments for a property that, at least for the foreseeable future, will never be worth what it is costing me. My integrity will not let me miss payments when I have the money to make them but the majority of government programs to assist homeowners require that the homeowner be at risk of foreclosure. The sum of the mortgage, taxes, insurance and home owner association fees exceeds potential rental value. Thus, I am shackled in one of the most expensive areas in the country.

So, I’ve owned a house for 10 years and I regret almost every year of it. Had I rented for the same period I would have either been able to live in a significantly better dwelling or had a much larger expendable budget. After 10 years of making payments that were almost double what I would have paid to rent the same place, I really have nothing to show for it except a mortgage balance that is greater than the value of the collateral. I am really ready to move on with my life. I would like to relocate and do other things. Mind you, I am not looking to move up in life. Most people would consider what I want to do a move down. But home ownership, the very thing that everyone told me would help me achieve my dreams, is the very thing that has me locked into a place, a situation that I find depressing and stressful.

I have read through the docs that explain the basic structure of the WordPress theme. Seems simple enough. The next step is to delve deeper into the theme structure as I figure out how to duplicate the design I currently have on Smittie’s Ramblings. I would like to incorporate my resume into the design. This should include structuring it so that I can manage the resume entries using WordPress instead of authoring them directly in HTML, which is rather tedious.

I have several things I want to get done first but I am looking forward to exploring the plethora of plug-ins and extensions for WordPress. There is a lot of interesting functionality out there. Plug-ins for Movable Type are a bit of a mess. A given plug-in may or may not work on a particular version of Movable Type. The author may or, more likely, may not still be supporting it. Once installed a plug-in could bring your whole site to a standstill because Movable Type can’t find itself. I have heard and expect that the WordPress plug-in world is more organized. Or so I hope.


Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post.

I have lived on Movable Type for most of the years that I have maintained a blog. I have made a couple of attempts at WordPress but never very seriously. I did not like php. Movable Type is kind of falling off the face of the earth, WordPress is taking over the world. Time to learn Worldpress.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was a new blog entry once a week. That resolution did not survive even the first month. Part of that was the blog environment. Part of it was motivation. Ancillary project(s) are also contributing to my desire to learn and master WordPress. So, we shall see how it goes.


The unemployment rate among college graduates is 4.1% (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). We might choose to believe that this provides a case for getting a college degree. However, this overlooks some very important truths. Some people are not good at or happy in the types of jobs that a college degree affords. College is not necessarily the best format for preparing people for all occupations. Society needs the services of many occupations that are not well served by college education.

The thought being that if we give everyone a college education, they will rise to the socio-economic advantage that people with a college education normally have. However, what if it is not the college education that is the key to success? Is it not more likely that success comes out of pursuing that which you are good at, that which you find fulfilling? Is the only difference between an auto mechanic and an economist, the college education of the latter? Is it reasonable to suppose that had the auto mechanic instead gone to college, majored in economics, she would be happy working in economics? The most rudimentary survey of high school students shows that this is clearly not the case. Some people are made to more academic pursuits. Some people are wired to be outside. Some people are only happy when their hands are covered in grease and oil and they are up to their waist in a motor.

As a society we have made it second rate to pursue a career that does not involve going to college. Kitchen tables all across America are the battle ground of kids who are being told that they must go to college even though their passion is to build homes, fix cars, or be a cowboy. Where would today’s unemployment rate be if being blue collar were not equated with being second class? If students who sought to pursue vocational careers paths were given equal time and resources as their college bound peers?

Mike Rowe hits the nail on the head his testimony before the Senate.


I started using this app a few months ago. It is the best bible on the iPhone that I have found. All the major translations of the bible as well as a lot of lesser ones. Lots of different languages. The text is well displayed and easy to read. The app has day mode and low light mode.

It was actually this app that inspired (or maybe persuaded) me to read through the bible in a year. The app popped up a suggest in the end of December.

“A new year is starting, how about starting a reading plan in the new year,” says Bible app.
“OK, what have you got?”

Bible has quite a few plans, divided into five categories; devotional, partial bible, topical, whole bible and youth. I was looking for a plan that would get me through the whole bible. At the head of the list is Bible in 90 Days. Now, while I am quite literate, have a fairly respectable vocabulary, I am not a very fast reader. In fact, I am pretty slow. According to the description, it works out to about 12 pages of Bible a day. Next. A plan titled Chronological. Read through the Bible in the historical order in which events occurred, according to current research.

So far, the reading plan has me going through 3 to 4 chapters a day. I started in Genesis, Adam and Eve, beginning of the world, right? Read in Genesis through Noah’s boat ride. I am currently reading Job, apparently he was next.

Bible is made available by LifeChurch.tv for free. I have had no problems with the app. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in a good Bible on the iPhone.