November 2006 Archives

November 28, 2006

Broadband Blues: The West Side Story

For those of you who are not aware, various municipalities within Utah are working together to build an interlocal fibre-optic network called UTOPIA. Already currently running in some areas, the project allows for transmission of Internet, VoIP phone, and Digital Television to the participating municipalities for a relatively low cost. The revenue generated then go back to the municipalities that are participating.

The project is very ambitious, but worthwhile as participating customers can have a minimum of 10Mbps synchronus internet access, and for the same price as DSL connections tend to be. It's faster than Cable internet, faster than DSL, and even faster than wireless connections. It can allow home developers to build and host their own websites without a fear of bandwidth problems, or even host their own Television stations if they so choose. It's the Utopia that every tech geek would want... If they could get it.

There are a number of limitations to the UTOPIA project, the first of which is distribution. Currently only 14 cities within Utah are participating, and that means not everyone can have that kind of development. It's also highly distrusted by the dominant telecommunications companies in Utah (Namely Qwest and Comcast) because they see less-expensive competition moving on their turf that doesn't have to use their network. And finally, it's moving very slowly in it's deployment due to recent funding issues and construction costs.

In particular, West Valley City (the second largest municipality in Utah, and to the West of Salt Lake City) has been moving very slow. While they are currently building the project on the East side of the city, it is not expected to reach the West side (and incedentially, the side that I am on) until late 2008 - early 2009. This means that I have to settle for more conventional, and slower, internet connections until that fibre-optic cable is connected to the house.

The problem is, there are not a whole lot of broadband internet options within the west side of West Valley City to begin with. Qwest has yet to provide a decent DSL connection to the area, perhaps punishing the city for it's involvement in UTOPIA (but that's just my opinion). Comcast is available, but as the only wired internet provider in the region the connection speed is split too many ways to be useful.

Luckily there is a wireless option with The Blue Zone, which offers reasonable rates for it's connection speed and remains very reliable. But, while I don't want to sound disloyal to the best internet service currently available to me, it's not the 10Mbps or 100Mbps that I would want to have in order to explore the internet options that I have envisioned. Currently I have the option of hosting my own website (though no server to serve it up...yet), but I have a vision that includes distance learning options, video streaming, and perhaps even some VoIP communication options. But in order for these goals to be met, I need to have the bandwidth to handle the traffic.

So that's why I have the Broadband Blues... I have the vision, I have the projects outlined and ready for development, but I don't have all the necessary tools to get the job done. What is the major hole in my progress? Bandwidth. To get the bandwidth I need, I would have to host my servers at a data center (like Xmission) for more money than I can afford. So the ideas that I have are currently floating in mid air, waiting for the Utopia that can bring them to a reality.

November 21, 2006

Political Parties: The Professionalization of the Party System?

While enjoying my Thanksgiving vacation with my family to San Diego, I was caught by a very strange thought that has been percolating within my brain since the election results. At first it seemed so comical that I was going to dismiss it as a random thought, but as I tried to sleep tonight the argument seemed to become more prevalent. It seems that the idea of the Political Party is becoming more of a professional Brand-name, and less of an embodiment of an ideal.

Now, I have to preface this with the comment that I am not affiliated with any political party, as no single party covers all the positions that I support, or for the reasons that I support the positions that they support. I do have my biases, but they are generally non-party specific.

I have written before about the political atmosphere in the United States, and the public arena that allows Americans to declare their beliefs, biases, and personal thoughts. Generally this can be aligned with a party in one way or another, as each party will have a "for" or "against" position on something. For instance, if you are pro-environment, then generally you are expected to vote with the Democrats. If you are for traditional family values, then it's generally expected you would vote for the Republican party. This is because these parties have been a focus of one postition or another since their inception, even as those positions have fundamentally changed over the 230 years the United States has been a country. But, to my amazement, I have seen that change.

Within this last year, when partisan bickering has been at it's worst since I can remember, there was a fundamental shift in American thinking, as well as how this political race was run. It was ever so subtle that I couldn't seem to catch it while in the political fervor, and yet it seems as plain as day to me now. Politics has become less a race of ideals, but rather a race of the Party. No longer are the Americans voting for their ideals when they vote for the party, they are voting for their favorite "team" to win.

This opens another discussion altogether with regards to the American's need to "win" at everything. Competition was taken to heart in America, building a desire to win at all costs for the sake of winning. But for the interests of time, I would be happy to outline this discussion. Perhaps in a future post.

Anyway, back to the point. In this last election the Democrats won back the House and the Senate. We all know the score, the people were sending a referendum to President George W. Bush regarding his handling of Iraq, the scandals that were proliferating within Congress, and so on.

The Democrats are treating this victory as a "Mandate" to carry on their policies to Washington. Nevermind that the "victory" was little more than a majority (I believe it was Nancy Pelosi herself that warned Pres. Bush that his victory of a similar percentage was not a Mandate), and nevermind that they haven't seem to be able to agree on a policy other than the popular voting policies. "We Need Change" is not a policy, as outlined in a "Murphy Brown" episode cronicling the Republican takeover under Pres. Clinton. But I don't think the "party" has the same idea on all the issues. This is because of the introduction of the true winning party: The Blue Dog Democrats.

Yes, every single Democratic seat that was won from a Republican was won by a Blue Dog Democrat. What is a Blue Dog Democrat? Well, as I'm fond of saying, a Blue Dog Democrat would be considered a Coastal (East or West coast) Republican. This means that they are a very conservative group within the Democratic party, who were just "liberal" enough to run for the Democrats instead of the Republicans. Many of their positions on key issues (such as Abortion, Family Safety, fiscal responsibility, etc.) are in line with Republican ideals. In fact, these are many of the "family values" that so many political commentators have been trying to identify. They represent the majority of the new congressmen, and from what I can read the new Senators as well.

So how dose this make the party "professional"? Well, I see it in this manner. The Democrats had a lot of things going for them in this election if they didn't blow it. They knew that the Republicans had made a number of mistakes, and appeared to be turning a blind eye to the events taking place (with a few exceptions). But the majority of the Democratic Party didn't have a cohesive platform that was strong enough to seem viable (again, "I'm Not Bush" didn't work for Kerry). So they needed to get some faces in that seemed to know what to do, appeal to the moderate base on multiple layers, and they would have the win they wanted.

Enter the Blue Dogs. Everyone of them seem to have much the same position on government as Republicans do (or did under Reagan, or arguably unified the party). Any one of them could have ran for the Republican party and fit right in. But instead they ran for the Democrats, giving them the edge that they needed. Essentially, the Democrats "recruited" the best people to give them a victory, regardless of their more conservative leanings. One could even argue that they sold out to get down the field.

This same strategy is common in business, sports, or even in military objectives. The goal is the objective, not the method in getting there. As long as the minimum requirement has been met in the rules and the objective is met, it's considered a win. It's called "Thinking outside the box" in the business world. It's called "building the winning team" in Sports. But within a political arena with the personal belief built in, it's flirting dangerously with "selling out".

But there is also another way you can look at it: it's a chance for change. Yes, political parties change their positions quite often. For too long the Democratic Party has been labeled the "Looney Left", and has actually tried to live up to it's name. That's how more radical conservatives get into power, by using people who are too dedicated to a position to realize that compromise is possible as their lightning rod. A good example is Sen. John Kerry. He definitely didn't help the Democratic Party within this last election with his attempted joke and delayed apology.

Now, I want to let the Democratic Party know that I support many of their announced changes. I think the Minimum Wage should be raised, and I think that Big Business needs to be closely monitored. I also think that healthcare needs to be available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. I also feel that the environment needs to be protected, starting with a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, and the increased utility of renewable energy options.

I would also like to let those that automatically equate religious devotion to the Republican Party know that such a view is stereotypical at best. Most religious organizations themselves are apolitical, and openly profess their neutrality. Just because the Republican Party has utilized many of the religious beliefs of various religious organizations out there (not just Christians, I would like to note), it doesn't mean that all religous people are Republicans. That's that same as saying all Democrats are Atheists, which would anger a number of Democratic leaders currently serving, as well as many that were elected. Remember, religious beliefs and positions have been out there for thousands of years before the United States was created, and deserves a bit more respect than an off-hand association.

I would also like to point out that various Republicans have been doing the same thing, and would be easily labeled the "Radical Right" on their positions. I'm only focusing on the Democratic Party because of their recent decision to become more centrist in order to come into power.

So in the end has the system become "professional" in that they recruit members in order to be the "top dog", or has the Democratic Party just taken a long look at themselves, and realized that their ideology is too far to the left to ever get back in the majority, and that they need to make some adjustments to be more mainstream? And I suppose the bigger question is: Can their followers accept the change, since the "radical right" has practically equated political agenda as almost religious in nature.

At any rate, that is the observation of a tired Utahn, sitting up in the night in San Diego.

November 15, 2006

Linux Certifications Continued: SAIR or LPI? Oh, and Linux +

Yes, with my recent comparison with Red Hat and Novell, this comparison was bound to come about. One of the great strengths of Linux, or any open sourced OS, is the diversity that comes from using the same core but different methods for reaching the same goal. That diversity is both it's strength and it's weakness, as anyone that has been flamed by another Linux user for their choice of Distro can attest to. But that's a subject of another discussion all together. ^_^

For the purposes of training, it's important to give as broad a base as possible and not tie yourself to any one specific distribution. This means having a distro-neutral training ground that is well respected within the Linux and Corporate community. Of the advanced training options out there, I have found only two that seem to meet those requirements: SAIR and LPI. This entry will be a comparison of the two from a potential instructor's point of view.

In previous posts, I have outlined the role that LPI plays. This is because it was the one vendor neutral linux certification that I could find information on that was being offered. It is Internationally accepted by the Linux community, and even had a Linuxworld certification event in Koeln (Cologne) Germany. This indicated that the certifcation is alive and active in it's growth. The testing materials are currently only a year old in their current form, and they are very comprehensive. By all accounts, it's a definite certification to take seriously.

In addition to the certification, becoming a partnered learning center is also fairly easy. All you need are LPI certified materials (such as Guru Labs courseware materials) and a competent, trained staff that know how to teach. Most educational facilities can handle this, though the overall process is not geared to educational facilities. But that's the topic of another rant (i.e., the problem with business scaling to all entities). Regardless, LPI is a very viable option for any training facility that is looking to include vendor neutral Linux certification training. For more information on the LPI certification process and the topics covered in each section, check out their website here:

So there I was, thinking that I have finally found the one Linux certification that was very advanced, well designed, and covered a wide range of topics... until I found the SAIR Linux/GNU certification. SAIR was developed with the Linux Professional Group, and focuses on both Linux, and the GNU applications that enhance the Linux kernel. The really nice thing about their certification process is that it requires four training sessions and exams to qualify for one certification (with exception of their Master Linux Certified Engineer which only requires two). Each training session is 4 days long.

The first certification covers the OS itself, with emphasis on networking, administration, and security. Basically, it covers most of both the LPI certifications within it's one certification. That is the Linux Certified Administrator cert.

The second certification goes into applications that are used in conjunction with Linux, but can (and are) applied in other UNIX-like flavors. This includes basic concepts, the Apache Web Server, Samba, and Sendmail. While these applications are lightly covered in the second certification for LPI, whole sessions are dedicated to each application. Obviously, that would be more valuable to someone that spends a lot of time working in that field. Completion of these exams gives the Linux Certified Engineer cert.

Finally, the Master Linux Certified Engineer cert requires the completion of the Linux High Availability class, and the Postgres & MySQL Databases exams. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like these exams were ever given to Prometric for testing, and there is no indication on the SAIR website as to where these exams are offered.

And that's when I started to get concerned. Sure, this all sounds great. And on top of it all they have a very educational institution-friendly process of becoming a learning partner, but they don't seem to have very updated information on their website. So I checked various educational materials provided by bookstores out there... Most of the material is dated from 2001. There have been a lot of kernel changes since then, and even a shift in networking methods.

So, I checked Prometric to see if they still have the exams available for testing. They do, so that at least means something. Students can still test for the SAIR certifications and receive them. But can an instructor teach to the exam, and still remain on topic?

I sent an email off to SAIR to get more details, and have yet to hear back from them. Granted, it was 24 hours ago, but LPI replied to my inquiry within 12 hours. So, my concern is that the certification is no longer being updated, and therefore is about as useful as my A+ certification from 1998. For more information on the SAIR certification, please check out their website here:

Yes, I know I didn't make a big mention of this at the beginning, and that's because the certification is meant to indicate a basic working knowledge of Linux, much like the LPI 1 certification. But it's worth a mention, as CompTIA has quite a reputation in the industry for overall vendor neutral certifications. Needless to say, it is something that any Linux training center should encourage for their learners, specifically since it gives them one more certification without an additional class. This is because all the topics covered in the LPI certifications are more than enough to pass the Linux+ certification. For more information on the CompTIA Linux+ cert, check out their website:

So, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you with yet another quandry. Which certification should be focused on? If I had more confidence in it, it would be the SAIR certification, as it covers the LPI quite well and goes into more detail with it's second and third tier certifications. But without a sure knowledge of it's current status, the LPI may be the only advanced Linux certification out there that is worth teaching for. If anyone knows of the status of the SAIR certification, please let me know.

November 13, 2006

Linux Certifications Revisited: RedHat or Novell?

A while ago I posted a listing for Linux certifications that I was looking into, along with a conclusion that all certifications would be benefitual. The next step is choosing an affiliation.

If one is to become a reputable Linux training center, one must build up relationships with the various training organizations out there. This means working with organizations like the Linux Professional Institute, CompTIA, Red Hat, and Novell. But each have their own requirements, making it necessary to timetable the process of becoming a training center very carefully.

In this discussion, I want to look at both Red Hat requirements, and Novell requirements. Both are very exact in what they require, but different in how they deploy their educational material, and therefore their partner programs.

Red Hat
Red Hat is probably alone in the certification program, in that they are not affiliated with any professional testing center for their testing. Instead, they provide it to the training center directly, along with their training materials. Normally that would raise some red flags in my book, but as they are Red Hat, it makes sense. They are also associated with Sun Microsystems (from what I can tell online), as well as IBM, which adds to their credibility. They also have very stringent requirements for their training facilities. Here is what they say in their Certified Training Partners website:
"About Red Hat Certified Training Partners

Delivering and administering the Red Hat Certified Engineer Program entails a great deal of responsibility.

That's why Red Hat, Inc., is very selective in deciding which organizations to authorize as Red Hat Certified Training Partners.

We select only leading training organizations with a strong background in UNIX or other POSIX compatible OS technology, networking, and Internet technologies. Red Hat Certified Training Partners must be committed to quality and integrity, while at the same time being effective at sales and marketing. They must have a reliable delivery capability, so that Red Hat's programs are made available as widely as possible while insuring quality."

Now, I can justify each of these claims, as it is important to keep control of training when dealing with a brand. That name is linked directly to the company, even if they are not directly employed by the company. I remember, while in charge of the training email queue for eBay, how many people complained about non-eBay sanctioned training. Quality control for anything representing the brand is important.

That being said, it requires a contact from Red Hat to explain what a "strong background" is, or why sales and marketing is so important. As of this writing, I have not received a reply as to what level is required to meet the expectations. But, in all fairness, I don't expect a reply within a couple of hours. ^_^

From what I can see initially, there isn't a requirement for the Instructor, other than they should obviously be certified in the course they provide. Instructor requirements are a touchy subject for me, as I feel there is a fine path that needs to be tread in this area.

Every instructor is not the same as the other. Many are just techs that have been asked to teach a course. As anyone who has taken such a course know, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) does not mean a Trainer. Just because you know something about what you are teaching, doesn't mean that you can teach that subject. There are requirements that need to be met, such as understanding the learning style of your students and adapting to those styles. As a trainer, you also need to be able to gauge the understanding of the learners, and organize the subject to suit their experience. It also helps to be able to build upon their experience level in order to help them best retain the information.

Also, it's important to recognize the instructor's abilities and accomplishments. Just because you may not know what they can do, doesn't mean they can't teach. A healthy skepticism is one thing, but to ignore it completely can cause the death of your program within a facility. Recognizing accomplishments, such as technical training certifications or educational degrees, should be considered as important as their technical certifications. While it may not be a guarantee of training ability, if someone has a MAEd or an EdD, chances are they know a little bit about teaching.

Okay, my little tirade is over, now on to the discussion. Red Hat doesn't include any instructor requirements that are easily seen online, so I am awaiting a response from them as to what specifically is available.

Novell has been getting a lot of bigotted press from the Linux community lately because of their recent deal with Microsoft. Regardless, they have one of the most comprehensive certification programs out there, second only to Red Hat. They also have a very well organized certification program.

The training center is basically the same as with the Linux Professional Institute program. Basic lab requirements, as well as someone that has a clue about teaching. CLP Instructors with educational backgrounds are respected for that, and therefore only need to receive a certification in the subject they are going to teach. They also need to work for a certified training center.

What I really like about Novell is the division between Commercial and Educational facilities. No other organization that I am aware of provides educational training options as well as commercial training options. Generally the Commercial is developed first, while the education facility needs to conform in some fashion.

So, in my research that I have performed, I found that though the Linux community may be a little upset with Novell right now, it's actually easier to be a Training Center for Novell than it is for Red Hat. That opinion may change as I get more information from Red Hat, but as it stands Novell has the lead.

November 10, 2006

Renewable Energy: Plausible Possibilities

With the recent interest in urban farming, I have found that there are a number of options that are available to those who are interested in growing their own food year round. That being said, it also takes a number of resources, not the least of which include the need for energy to control the growing climate. This is no less true when it comes to growing tropical and subtropical plants in Utah. It definitely represents a problem, as increased energy costs can greatly off-set the savings from growing your own vegetables.

With this problem in mind, I began to look at my options. A couple of years ago, shortly after I began at eBay, I looked into the cost of solar power. It was very interesting to me, particularly since I found a set up that would have been ideal, if not for the cost. So I gave that up as a future plan for a future home. The future home I have planned out will be quite remarkable, and even more so if I can get it built. But that's for another post.

So, I began by checking out my options. I knew I was looking for something ecologically friendly, particularly since the current weather in the Salt Lake Valley makes it prone to inversion, which traps air polutants within the valley. I also wanted something that would generate energy that would take fewer resources in the long term than utility bills currently do. For that, I would be willing to fit a moderately hefty bill for installation and equipment cost. But what to choose?

The Resources
The first resource I found was exactly what I needed. It was, an online version of a magazine of the same name. Here, I found an article by Dan Casale called "Prepaid Power: Putting Renewables to Work for You". Here, you can look at the options that are best for you. It breaks it down into a nice flowchart to decide which renewable resource is best for you.

The next was the Utah Geological Survey's website for the State Energy Program. It seems that there are some nice tax credits for those that qualify, and they outline all qualifications. It's also in plain English, and not Legislative nonsense. That I really like.

The Renewable Options
There are a number of renewable options out there, depending on the location of your house. The four that are available for tax credits are solar energy (passive, solar thermal, and solar photovoltaic), wind, water, and biomass (landfill gases, animal waste, etc.). All these options can qualify for a tax credit of some sort.

Solar is a good option in my book, because Utah gets plenty of sun, both during the summer and winter. I also have a south-facing house, which is perfect for setting up solar panels on the roof. That being said, it's also really expensive to have them installed. Solar can be a very viable option, if the costs were reduced to the point of affordability.

Wind is also a good option, but not in and of itself. Wind power in my part of the Salt Lake Valley is problematic, as the wind doesn't constantly blow. And, it also means a special permit for setting up a wind generator on the roof, which can also be problematic within West Valley City limits.

Water is perfect, as it's less expensive than all other options, is as constant as the flow of it's source, and is very esthetically pleasing once installed. The problem is, I don't live by a constant flowing source of water. There is an irrigation ditch behind my neighbor's house, but not by mine, and not constantly flowing. So this was completely out of the question.

The final option is also not logical for my needs, as I don't live near enough to a land fill (on purpose, you understand!), and do not have the source for animal waste that would make it feasible. Needless to say, this option was not at all considered.

So, that leaves me with two parts of the same puzzle, solar and wind. Both can be feasible, but neither can provide me with a constant source of energy if working alone. But, if both were installed together, it would mean that on most days I would have sunlight and a light breeze, generating energy. Then, when the day is cloudy or stormy, it would generally also be windy too. That greatly reduces the days of living off the battery (or power grid).

Other Considerations
Now that I have decided on the ideal options for renewable energy features, it's time to figure out what I actually need. First, I need to know how much energy I use, and what the system will cost overall. Then I need to decide on the implementation of the system, and how it will best benefit me. Finally, I need to find out if the incentives make the project financially viable.

Calculating the energy that you use monthly is easy: all you need is your monthly power bill. There it will tell you what power you use monthly by kilowatt hours (KWH). Most households use roughly 900 KWH a month, which means that the system you build needs to either complement existing power usage, or completely replace it. The more you use, the bigger the system will need to be, and the bigger the cost. This means that if you work on conservation (low-wattage light bulbs, turning off lights when they are not in use, etc.), you can decrease the cost of the replacement system. You can also decrease the cost of your power bill too, if a replacement system is too expensive even with conservation options. Once you know what you are aiming for, you can create a good plan for implemention.

Next, you need to know what the costs will be for your system. In this case, I needed to find a good website that provided an estimate that made sense. Initally I found a great website,, where I could have them determine my needs based on my power usage. I found that for my needs I could build a Solar/Wind hybrid system for around $10,000. This would include wiring and connection boxes to integrate it with my current power system, as well as have a battery backup. I then found a local company in Utah, In Hot Water Heat and Power that has programs for power installation, as well as solar heating and solar hot water heating. If you need to find a dealer outside of Utah, a good website is They list dealers for each US State.

Finally, you need to decide how to implement your system. Namely, whether to install it within the grid, or disconnect from the grid completely. For those that do have the choice, the benefits are that when you feed power back into the grid you actually are required by law to get paid by your power company for generating power for them. But, if the grid goes down (power outage), generally your power goes down as well. You can also go battery only, but then once the batteries are charged, the power switches off from them and there is no place to send the excess power, which is then sent to the ground. Personally, I would choose to have both. You can set up an on-grid system, but still have a battery backup just in case. Check with your local power company for options regarding on and off grid systems, and decide which is best for you.

Once you have all this set up, check for any incentives that your State may provide. Utah has a considerable incentive, up to 25% of the installation cost can be augmented by a tax credit. More information can be found at the Utah State Energy Program website sited earlier. If you are not in Utah, check with your local State energy department. They generally will let you know what is and is not available.

Now, once you have the program outlined... can you afford it? Currently, I can't afford the program that I want, but I can within the near future. That also generally means that costs will go down for the equipment that I would like to get, or I can get more effecient systems for the same amount of cash. The only thing that is not guaranteed is the tax credit, which seems to be a renewed program each year. Hopefully the State legislature will continue the same program many years to come.

Anyway, I hope this little insight into my personal research on renewable energy has been helpful to you. If you need more information, feel free to check out the resources sited. They were of great benefit to me, at any rate.

November 9, 2006

Urban Farming Revisited: The Patio

It's been a while since I have posted an update on my Urban Farming project, so I thought I would provide a quick message on the progress. Currently, I am working on setting the stones for the new patio in a dry set (or without sand). This is to help compress the dirt underneath, and set the patio in time for Spring when the sand will be set.

The chess board pattern is set in the middle, so the giant chess set has a place to play. I also need to find a buyer for both Willy's Jeeps I have in the garage. This will allow us to move some things around within there, and let us build another growing room, one with a more controlled environment.

Why? Well, because I have a goal to grow a couple of cacao trees, and need an insulated, tall room that has low-light option. This should simulate the growing environment fairly well for the cacao tree. And why the cacao tree? It's the source of cocoa beans, which is the source of chocolate. Yes, I intend to grow a source of chocolate in Utah, of all places. Will I be able to grow enough to be self sustaining? Absolutely not! This is just an experiment to see if it's possible to raise mature cacao trees within a dry, cold climate like Utah without a huge expense.

It also gives an great opportunity for another project for aquaculture. I love seafood, but fresh seafood in Utah is very hard to get. It could be the fact that we are so far away from the ocean, and that the only salt water body we have is the Great Salt Lake. So other than freshwater salmon and trout (both can be found in Utah lakes and resivoirs), there isn't much else that can be found locally.

I've mentioned my interest in Tilapia in past postings, but there are some other fish that may be possible for urban aquaculture. Namely, I'm interested in blue crabs from the east coast. Shellfish tend to have a good hearty constitution, and therefore can be well cared for within an aquacultural environment. Blue crabs are small enough that it's possible to grow several of them within a close environment, and thrive within brackish water.

So, that is currently the goal I have set. Hopefully there will be some additional information that I can post soon, as funding becomes available to continue with the construction.

November 3, 2006

Why Are Differences So Contentious?

November 7th is Election Day in the United States, and represents one of the most contentious events for the nation. My question is, why? Why is it so important to get personal about competition or races? It seems that regardless of the circumstances or the environment of the event, hatred results with personal attacks. Why? Why does the human mind feel so obligated to focus so much rancor against another bias that it doesn't agree with?

The first thing we need to understand is that all persons, regardless of who they are, have a bias of some sort. Anyone that claims they don't have a bias is obviously fooling themselves. This is as true for Politicians as it is for Journalists. It is also true for technology specialists and the OS Wars that are becoming far too common. Everyone's bias can define who they are, as it is generally an extension to the experiences one receives within their environment.

So why is it that we feel such a need to defend our previous experiences? Does mankind feel that any difference of opinion is a direct attack on themselves? Or is it rather that a difference of opinion has the potential to invalidate a portion of that experience, and therefore threaten to remove the cultural pillar that our lives are built upon.

It is natural for an animal to address any perceived threats with the "fight or flight" method, and to react in a number of different ways. Some react with violence, some with hatred and venemous words, and some with arguments. The ability to deal with the stress is indemic within these fight techniques, depending on the comfort level of those that are utilizing them. They are simply methods of dealing with the fight technique.

So why such a divergent range of methods to deal with a conflict in ideas? Those that do not feel comfortable in their ability to defend their own experience in a rational way need to defend in an irrational way. This usually covers the venemous and violent discussions and/or behavior. At least, that as been my experience (and as such, my personal bias). Those that make rational discussions generally feel comfortable within their understanding to make counter arguments that can therefore defend their own position. This means that while a complete change in bias is not possible, at least the bias itself has been adequately defended.

So, now that we know the background, let's get to the meat of the discussion. Politics are perhaps the most public expression of personal beliefs, ranging from positions on abortion to road construction. Because it's so personal, it becomes a part of who we are. We want to be respected for what we know, and for our experience. When someone else flatly dismisses that experience, it damages the ego. That is interpreted into an attack, and envokes a response.

This is the circumstance the allows mankind to differentiate itself from the rest of the animal world. The opportunity allows us to rise above the base need to attack another because of their experience, their personality. But it's also the an opportunity for us to show ourselves what we are made of. How we react defines who we are in any given situation.

So let's look at the Operating System wars. People become insensed when they are confronted with an operating system that is not their own. Windows vs. Macintosh, Windows vs. Linux, RedHat vs. SuSE, and so on. If one platform is found by one group to be useful, they believe that their platform is the only platform that can be used. Keep in mind that the it is a bias based on an experience. Just as those who used AOL couldn't understand the rancor unleashed by those that did not, those that use Windows can't understand why someone wouldn't want to use Windows.

What's important to understand that the completed task is the most important, and not the process taken to complete the task. If someone uses Windows to browse the internet, or Linux, Solaris, Mac OS, or even OS/2 Warp, in the end the task has been completed. The operating is just a tool to get the job done, not the job itself. If someone chooses to use the Macintosh to render 3D animation instead of Linux, or chooses Solaris to run a video streaming server instead of Windows, it's their choice. And as long as it works within acceptable levels, then it's a good choice.

So, what is my point in this post? Simply that experience can be a misleading pillar while dealing with other people. It's the results of those experience, and the ability to acknowledge other biases, that makes a human being truly human. Without that understanding hatred and violence can reign, free to destroy all that makes us "civilized". That is my bias.
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