Digital Cowboy

Digital Cowboy
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Archive for August, 2007

Monster trucks

Friday, August 31st, 2007

My two beautiful little redneck girls and I went to the Major League of Monster Trucks event last Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. I didn’t especially want to but we made a deal and they earned it. I’ve always found monster trucks to be fascinating… for about 15 minutes at a time. Katie, Emily & BrutusI was not willing to make the drive or spend the money for that reason, except that they were excited and wanted to go. So they earned it and we went.

I enjoyed it far more than I expected. If you’ve never done this and have the slightest interest, DO IT! Just GO. Those trucks, in real life, that close, are absolutely amazing. I found myself sitting there feeling like a little boy, giggling and thinking to myself, “Only in America! This is why the terrorists hate us!” Then I would giggle some more after each time that thought went through my head.

It’s the sort of thing that a thinking man looks at – in the midst of enjoying it – and says to himself, “Why?!?! This is ridiculous.” The answer of course, is “Because WE CAN!”

I think there’s a deeper lesson in there, certainly for me and I think probably for many people. I don’t have to justify what I find amusing. Or fun. Or pleasurable. It does not make me some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breather if I enjoy a display of redneck engineering. Furthermore, it most certainly is a display of great engineering. Those who would dismiss “those rednecks” have very much underestimated them.

Yes it’s silly. But not nearly as silly as “modern art.” Monster trucks – for that matter NASCAR – are amazing displays of the extremes possible with very practical mechanical engineering. Most art is worthless for anything except basic snobbishness. On that basis, I would argue that NASCAR and monster trucks are both far more useful and valuable than “art” and the ignorant ones are those who invest their time and energy into vacuous pursuits that serve no purpose except to make themselves falsely feel superior.

In fact, I would go a step further and say that anyone who does not see a monster truck as practical – and amazing – applied art is fundamentally ignorant and lacking a basic understanding of how the world works.

It is nothing short of amazing to see an 8-ton-plus vehicle using ~1500 horsepower to launch 30 or 40 feet into the air.

We were fortunate in that even though it was quite crowded already when we got there and we had to sit way off from the center of the grandstands, we got seats in the second row. Then, after the event began, the kids were allowed to move down into the unoccupied seats that had been reserved for the handicapped. So I watched from row two and my girls were in row 0 – in front of the front row, right at the fence.

Being off-center turned out to be a blessing. When they got ready for the Freestyle round – the best part – they brought out a giant forklift and started moving vans and a bus to set up… RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. A large portion of the big action in the Freestyle competition happened directly in front of us and only about 50 feet away.

I put a few pictures up. The first page of thumbnails is all mainly pics of my kids with the trucks. The second page is purely monster truck action. The first 6 pics are not of a “real” monster truck. It’s a truck we parked near in the parking lot. In the pictures you’ll notice Texas plates on it. It’s street legal. In Texas anyway.

(There are a few pics in the gallery that have boldface titles underneath. Those pics all have description text if you click on them to view the larger version.)

Follow up: Overlooking The Blessing

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I recently posted about boots and said, in part:

What’s even funnier – to me at least – is that I had a tough choice, when I bought them, between these and another pair. When I made the decision for these, I did it with the thought in mind that I would get the others soon anyway. Now I’m thinking about getting those too.

To be clear, I was using boots as an example of a Kingdom principle in operation. Apparently, Daddy decided it was a good example, too.

The second pair of boots I mentioned – that I was thinking about ordering – were delivered by UPS last Thursday. I didn’t order them and the person that bought them for me as a gift – my sister – didn’t know anything about my blog post, nor had we discussed those boots at any time recently. She knew about them only because I asked her opinion when I was trying to decide which pair to get before.

When I got them, I called her and asked if she had been reading my blog. She replied, “No. I don’t read your stupid blog. I just knew you wanted those boots and I got an email recently about a big boot sale where everything was discounted. I got such a good deal I couldn’t pass it up.” (I’ve slightly paraphrased our conversation for readability in this context but I’m sure she would agree I’ve not changed any meaning.)

What’s more, these boots are even more beautiful in person than they appeared in any pictures. I like them even better than the (more expensive) snip toe lizard boots I already have. They are goatskin with a lizard wing tip and I honestly have never seen western boots that are dressier looking than these. I may have to upgrade my wardrobe because I’m not sure I have any clothes that can do them justice. They’re just screaming for a band-collar, western tux shirt and a western sport coat.

He said, “WILL [not might] come on you and OVERTAKE you.” Kind of like when I was thinking about maybe ordering these boots sometime soon and they suddenly arrive at my door. Kind of like how until a few months ago I had dreamed that someday I would have a pair of hand-made Lucchese boots and now I have two pair.

By the way, if you’re keeping score (I only do so I can brag on my God), these two pair of boots total nearly $800 at retail. I’ve spent a grand total of $150 on them and the total amount spent by everyone involved in this blessing is less than $450 including sales tax and shipping.

That’s how The Blessing works. Abundantly above all you can ask or think.

What are you raising?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

It’s not easy to remain committed to the choice of home education. There is an organized, concerted effort to make it difficult. The primary opponents would make it completely illegal if they could and that alone says much about what drives them. But I’ve found that even those that nominally support the concept are often challengers simply by ignorance.

I’ve been asked often – and in many different contexts – why I’m so determined to shield my children from the government indoctrination camps. In fact, I often ask myself that question because I need to bolster my resolve in the face of a world that disagrees with me. Everywhere. All the time.

There are many, many reasons, but here’s the shortest, easiest answer:

I’m not raising employees. I’ve been given responsibility for two wonderful little people and I want them to be employers.

Here is the longer explanation of that statement:
I don’t want my children to ever need to work for someone else. I want them to learn business and trades (multiple) and skills (multiple) that will allow them to pursue their passions and create multiple income streams, hopefully of the passive variety. Those are the things I’m pursuing now. With God’s Blessing on “everything I set my hand to” it’s going well. But it took me way too many years to get here and, in my opinion, I’m just now at the starting point.

It’s a sappy cliche that all parents want their children to have “a better life” than they did. It’s also either not true or there are a whole lot of very, very ignorant parents. I suspect it’s the latter, it’s by design and it’s ultimately forced government schooling that is to blame.

Don’t misunderstand me – there is no shame in working for someone else. But it should be a temporary situation if it’s necessary at all. Selling nearly half of your waking hours to others for nearly half of your life is not “living.” It’s plum stupid. It’s also unnatural. We were created as sovereign beings and tasked with subduing the earth. For the last 150 years (or so) in this country, there has been an organized concerted effort to redirect us from that God-given directive into subservience and it’s done primarily, if not entirely, through compulsory government schooling.

There is no one in a government school that can teach you how to be an employer because there aren’t any there. Everyone who has ever wasted twelve or thirteen years in a government school and gone on to eventually become an employer did it in spite of that “education,” not because of it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out; you can’t learn from someone what they don’t know. There is no one involved in government schooling, at any level, that is an employer.

It’s a machine; a headless monster. Everyone there is a victim of the system. No, you can’t reform it from within. No, you can’t fix it. It’s broken by design and it’s running smoothly, accomplishing its intended purpose.

That purpose is to condition its victims to quietly obey arbitrary authority and irrational rules. Sit down, shut up and do what you’re told. The teachers and administrators – no matter what their intentions – are just as much victims as the students. It is evil on a very basic level and it is the root of everything wrong with America.

If you intend to change my mind about this, you’ll need to show me the individual in charge in that mess. Be careful if you go seeking that, though. That “i” word is impermissible inside the machine.

In summary, home education to me is simply a return to the way God intended things to be and the way things were in this country at its start. My job, as I see it, is to teach my children how to prosper as sovereign individuals. The hardest part of that is explaining to them that the ever-growing government is a violent beast that hates them, not their friend.

If you disagree with me about any of this, I’ll smile and listen to your opinion with sympathy. It’s OK. Do what you feel is best for your children. My children will need employees just like I do.

The frugality of Mac (Justice to the undeserving)

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

My first computer was an Apple II and I’ve been using Macs since 1985. (I couldn’t afford them when they first came out and I didn’t get my hands on one for a year.) For quite a long time, Macs were more expensive but so far superior that they were still well worth it. Then there was a short time in the late 90′s when they were still expensive and the operating system road map had seriously lost its way. Microsoft caught up and technically surpassed the Mac OS briefly but I was still an apologist for Apple because the usability and interface was always superior. (It was a tough few years to be an Apple fan but I bought my first brand new Mac when even some of the apologists were concerned that they might go belly up.)

Then there was the Second Coming of Steve. Not long after that came the iMac and then OS X. It made up for all of the lost time and lost ground, practically in one fell swoop. It was far superior to anything Microsoft was offering and today that’s more true than ever. Vista is a desperate, flailing joke, albeit a $6 billion one. Microsoft will never catch up now.

OS X really is that advanced, it’s constantly being improved and Microsoft’s incompetence has finally caught up with them. They can’t buy their way out of this one because they lack the fundamental management skill required to recover from the mess they made. It’s very much like selling your soul to the devil. They’ve taken every underhanded sleazy, unethical shortcut they could find to ham-hand their way to a “monopoly.” It’s over and was short-lived. It’s time to pay the piper. I saw that all along and, combining that with my anarcho-capitalist principles, I was always opposed to government anti-trust intervention. “The market will correct it,” I said. I was right and the correction has begun.

It’s not blind Mac fanboi-ism that fuels my predictions of Microsoft’s demise in the OS space. It’s convergence – Ubuntu Linux has recently reached the tipping point where it’s better than any Microsoft OS, even for Mom and Pop that just want email and web browsing with no headaches or geek stuff. Right when Apple’s firing on all cylinders and Microsoft can’t find a way to stop tripping over their own feet – or is that their fundamental incompetence?

They’ve never, ever competed successfully in an open market without an unnatural advantage. They’re basically a complete failure as a company that has been propped up for 20 years by sleazy practices building on an unnatural monopoly that they stumbled and fell into. They have nothing of value to offer and that’s always been true. They’re an inept middle-man always trying to find a way to get paid for bad copies of popular products, by positioning.

That’s why they’re scrambling to spin what is the most colossal failure in their history – the train-wreck that is Vista. They devoted the lifeblood of the company’s resources for 5 years developing it. In the process, they spent $6 billion and hung the future of the company on it. As with everything else they’ve ever done, they failed. But this time the market noticed. And they can’t cover it up because they have legitimate competition. The computer industry has outgrown them. This is the end-result of unearned success – an unsavory combination of arrogance and incompetence.

So, Apple introduced new iMacs yesterday.

I was bored today when I saw FSJ’s post about the new iMacs that contained a link to Dell’s website. So I clicked. And then clicked a few more times and configured me a Dell Optiplex 745 Ultra-small Form Factor hunk o’ crap as close as I could get it to the new iMac base model. (That Ultra-small Form Factor thing is clearly designed to compete directly with the iMac; it even has an option to mount it behind the display in the flat panel’s stand.)

As usual, I couldn’t exactly configure something truly comparable because they don’t offer an integrated camera (ala iSight) and microphone or the exact same processors among other discrepancies. But I got as close as I reasonably could. In the end, the Dell had a slightly inferior processor, no webcam, no microphone, no Firewire, inferior audio and vastly inferior video. (They offer nothing better than Intel GMA integrated graphics in the Ultra-small.) I’m also not sure about the wireless capabilities of the Dell because I didn’t care enough to look, but I doubt that it has Bluetooth or 802.11n.

Anyway, the Dell was pretty much maxed out to come close to comparing to a base model iMac. (The hard drive was maxed out; the largest they offer for that form factor is 250GB. I could have added more RAM, a better processor and bigger flat-panel monitor to compare to the higher end iMacs but then the hard drive would be too small as well as widening the gap with their pathetic GMA graphics and making the price disparity even worse.) It was $1527 without any of the anti-virus or “security” options – mostly certainly necessary if you really hope to compare any Windows OS to the OS X experience. So we should add about $150 + annual subscription for that. But I didn’t out of mercy.

That’s just a tick over 25% more than the iMac it almost competes with. The better equipped iMac being $1199 and in addition to it’s other advantages, being gorgeous while the Dell is bland at best and butt-ugly in my opinion. Add to that the fact that you can run any OS that the Dell can run (and quite a bit better), in any combination along side OS X on the Mac, for free. Also the Mac’s usable life will be longer and should you choose to replace it before its usefulness is exhausted, it will have double to triple the resale value of the Dell.

At this point, the anti-Mac zealots generally respond with something like, “But I’m not buying a Dell either. Macs are expensive. I can build a computer better than the iMac for X.” (Where X is generally $400 if said zealot is delusional and/or lying and as high as $900 if they’re just delusional.)

In that case, you can subtract the Dell’s few nearly-comparable strengths (Small form factor, time-savings over build-yourself, integration and warranty) along with the $300 you’ll save over the iMac. If I’m feeling particularly vicious, I point out that the Mac comes bundled with useful software that would cost you more than $300 to replace on the white-box with horribly inferior knock-offs and you still need at least $100 worth of anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-adware and anti-suck software for the privilege of using a terribly inferior operating system.

So I’ve decided I’m going to just smack the next person that I hear say, “Yeah, those Macs are nice, but they’re expensive.”

And I’m also going to start listening for any mention of Dell so I can pipe in with, “Yeah those Dells are bland, boring, mediocre quality and can’t run a decent OS, but at least they’re a lot more expensive.”

And this, class, is why Apple is reporting record profits and growing sales at THREE TIMES the rate of the overall PC market.

The times they are a changing. I put little stock in market share numbers because they’re skewed against Apple in a variety of ways. But even if you believe them as they’re reported, Apple has doubled their market share in two years or so. That’s no small feat. At that rate you Apple-haters are going to have to ditch the term “niche” in just a couple of years.

This is just wild speculation, but I predict that 5 years from now someone will find a reasonably reliable method of measuring actual market-share (some web stats will be a more accurate measure by then) and the numbers will look something like 30% Mac, 10% Linux and 60% Windows, with the the Mac and Linux numbers still growing. In addition to Windows being on the decline it will also be harshly (to Microsoft) fractured at roughly 45% Windows Vista, 45% Windows XP SP3 (you know they’re gonna have to) and 10% Windows Whatever-the-&*^$-They’re-Calling-It-By-Then. Beta 2.

Overlooking The Blessing

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I was just recently looking for something else when I ran across an old comment I made right here on my own blog about how I would someday like to have a custom-made pair of Lucchese boots.

It’s funny to me now. The comment in question is less than two years old and at the time I made it, it was little more than a dream. A minor dream to be sure – I didn’t sit around fantasizing about boots. But I had wanted a pair of Lucchese’s for many years and always felt they were way out of my reach. In that comment I mentioned them because it sorta kinda came up in conversation.

I’ve had a pair for months now and had no recollection of that thought when I was ordering them or at any time since I’ve had them. They’re snip-toe, lizard boots, hand-made, special order. They are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned, also the most beautiful and most definitely the most expensive. I can now say that the Lucchese name is definitely worth the money. (As opposed to say, Justin, which is now just overpriced, second-rate garbage. I’ve had about 5 pairs of Justins because I’m a slow learner – they suck and I had to buy another pair every year until I wised up.)

What’s even funnier – to me at least – is that I had a tough choice, when I bought them, between these and another pair. When I made the decision for these, I did it with the thought in mind that I would get the others soon anyway. Now I’m thinking about getting those too.

This, friends, is what He meant when He said The Blessing would come on you and overtake you. For those who rail at this as “Prosperity Gospel,” I would like to point out a few things:

1) the Lucchese boots I wear today cost me less than a third of their list price. At the price point I bought them, they were only slightly more expensive than the “everyday” boots (made by Justin) that I was wearing before. (Ditto for my new truck. I got a real bargain.)

See, now I’m a Jew. I buy everything at a discount and sell just a little below retail. So everybody wins. That’s what The Blessing does. For natural Jews as well as us adopted ones.

2) I’m walking in this blessing not because I’m seeking out expensive boots and new trucks. I started seeking the Kingdom and all of this gets added. (Matt. 6:33) I honestly forgot until tonight that I had always wanted Lucchese boots in spite of the fact that I’ve been wearing them for months. “…will come on you and overtake you…” (I wasn’t seeking boots.)

3) Reaching back to number two, you should know that the Kingdom works on sowing and reaping. I’ve given into ministry and charity when I “couldn’t afford it.” Then, as God has prospered me, I’ve looked first to sowing seed and giving back. Prior to getting the boots for a third of retail, I gave offerings (not tithe – that’s different and separate) that were extravagant, into ministries that I trust and where I’ve seen God’s anointing. On one occasion, I wrote a single check for an offering that was more than the retail cost of those boots, “spontaneously” just because the Spirit spoke to me and I was willing. I wasn’t even sure I could “afford” it. I just knew that I should be obedient.

As a result, I have a harvest. A harvest that has pulled me from homeless just over a year ago to a life now where I have money in abundance and luxuries come to me at great discounts.

This is Kingdom living. It’s available to everyone. It’s not a perversion of the Gospel. It is the Gospel. When I was destitute, the only people that cared to help were the government Mafia and prosperity-believing Christians. They rescued me. In less than a year, I went from needing help to providing it.

Without people that believe God’s abundance, the “salvation” Gospel couldn’t be preached. It takes money. The “prosperity gospel” is the only Gospel because it’s a message of adoption and He’s not lacking anything. If you are, you’ve missed something. Review.

Daddy’s rich. Learn how things are done here in His family and you’ll never want!*

Wait. Does that sound like a TV preacher and you shrink back because… I forgot. I’m supposed to beg you for your money.

I’m sorry. I can’t accommodate you. I don’t need your money. I’m rich and looking for opportunities to give. I’m talking about biblical principles and a better way to live.

*Psalm 23:1