11 Dec 2008

An Open Letter to Politicians and Their Election Campaigns

On September 9th of this year, I woke up at about 3 am for some unknown reason. I’m quite a deep sleeper, so I was surprised that I didn’t just fall right back asleep. I kept tossing back and forth and couldn’t fall back asleep. For what reason I don’t know, I kept thinking about the upcoming Presidential election, more specifically about the campaign slandering that is so prevalent in politics today. I worked myself into a fervor fairly quickly just being so frustrated over the issues in the election and how neither of the candidates seemed to be addressing them. The only things that the media reported on (at least in the limited attention I gave to the media) were campaign slandering practices.

Pretty soon I gave up all hope of going to bed since my mind was so entrenched in frustration. What follows is my 4 am brain dump I wrote and delivered to each candidates websites. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Dear Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain, Mr. Biden, and Mrs. Palin,

In a state dominated by the Republican Party, I am what you would term a “swing-voter”. Formerly thought to be a Republican by upbringing, I can find no decisive reason to vote on the Republican ticket in the upcoming election. What’s more, in an election race that seems to be incurably bi-partisan, it seems that my only other option is to vote on the Democratic ticket. As I do my best to sift through the media’s interpretation of the messages that both camps are trying to convey to their respective voters, one message continues to ring loud and clear from each side (if you’ll allow me to paraphrase): “You should vote for us because the other guys are not qualified, and indeed, are liars.” Forgive me for not believing either of you.

The sad truth about our current political climate is that the general public have a general distrust for most of what comes out of a politician’s mouth. But I find it sickening that a day does not go by where I don’t hear a smear from either camp. The attacks are political propaganda, one-sided information that is cooked up in order to unseat the opponent by making him look foolish, like a liar, or a cheater. In other words, “Mr. Neilsen, please vote for Me because He is clearly an incompetent fool.” I’m tired of it. If you want to talk politics, let’s talk about YOUR politics. If you want to talk about policies, let’s talk about YOUR policies. If you want to talk about change in America, let’s talk about the change that YOU intend to make. I don’t care what you think the other guy is going to tell me. It doesn’t matter, you have no control over it. What’s worse, it makes YOU look foolish for trying to do it in the first place.

At 25 years of age, I am a relatively new voter. I’ve voted in a few previous elections, and generally haven’t taken a lot of time to weigh all the options before making a decision. Like most people, based on a limited amount of information, I rely on my morals and judgement to determine which politician would best lead me. The four individuals this letter is addressed to stand in a phenomenal position. You stand atop the political climate of this entire planet. When elected, two of you will literally have the executive power to change this country, and indeed the power to change the world. Why then would I base ANY decision to elect MY President based on a message where all I can hear is “He said, She said”.

I’m fed up with this style of campaigning. I call on both parties to end this ridiculous charade now. I call on both parties to start talking about the benefits this country will receive if you were to be in charge of it. I don’t want to hear why you think the opposition will do a bad job, tell me why you’ll do a good job. I feel like I cannot make my point any more plain.

Real frustration comes to me because in the end, were I to vote “Democrat” or “Other”, because of my geographic location my voice will inevitably be drowned in the crowd. Because of the Electoral College voting system, the 5 votes from Utah will inevitably all be for Mr. McCain, regardless of who I wish to become the next President. But I still believe in Democracy and the chance that we the people have of controlling the destiny of this country. That is the reason for this letter: to exercise my right to free speech and tell two would-be presidents the kind of message I am looking for. As it stands, neither candidate will receive my nomination this november, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Obama’s skin is a different color than mine, nor has it anything to do with Mr. McCain’s age. It’s because I haven’t heard a defining voice cutting through the barrage of insults and smears. Gentlemen and Lady, please tell the American People what you will do for us, and we’ll take it from there. Thank you for your willingness to serve our country.

Mr. BJ Neilsen

08 Dec 2008

Woot! Just Rules

One of my favorite sites on the web for witty content is woot.com. They also sell stuff, but I’m more interested in their witty commentary on life and being weird (after all, we are ALL nerds). They rarely send a newsletter out (like once every 4 months or something), but it’s always jam-packed with great stuff. I just received their newsletter for the “holiday season” and thought it was so great I decided to post it. Without further ado, woot!

Attention, thelocalshred: Welcome to Woot’s first official recession-era newsletter! For the next 12 to 24 months, all citizens are expected to fret over, worry about, or even directly experience the nadir of a consumerist society - OMG! What will we do when we stop buying stuff? Economists now agree that we’re headed through a prolonged period of decreased consumer spending (you really need an advanced degree to come up with insights like that). Beyond that, it’s anybody guess. Will the only growth sectors in the economy be shoe repair, pipe salvage, and roadside apple sales? Or will we bring on a quick recovery by doing patriotic things like buying stuff we can’t afford and spending more money than we make? As a retailer, it’d make sense for us to fall in with the BUY STUFF, AMERICA conga line. But by now, you know that we at Woot never do things the “normal”, “sensible”, “rational”, “intelligent” way. We’re not about to follow the herd over a cliff. When we go over a cliff, it’s because of our own poor judgment, not someone else’s. That’s been our credo since about five minutes ago, when we first thought of it. And we’ve stayed true to it ever since. That’s why we’re encouraging you and your fellow wooters to save this holiday season. Save your money! Save until you pull a saving muscle. Horde your money until you are literally choking on it. Save until maybe, like, mid-February or so, when the market will be a-glut with great deals for the taking every day. You’ll avoid the crowds, take advantage of desperate retailers, and not have to hear “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” even once. Sure, maybe you’ll disappoint some of your loved ones. But if they really love you, they can wait a couple of months, especially if your finances are at stake. Besides, if your so-called loved ones wanted you to set yourself on fire, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. And that’s the kind of independent thinking that will one day break the mindless conformity of our consumerist holiday ways. But be warned: you’ll want to stay far away from Woot.com this week. The breadth and scope of bargains we’ll be offering - especially starting Tuesday morning at midnight - will be powerfully tempting. They could even lead you back down the spend-spend-spend path with the rest of the sheep. And that would make us sad enough to cry while we’re taking your money. See you in February! Woot.com

08 Dec 2008

How Not to Court a Software Developer

I am currently tied to a ubiquitous 9-5 software job. There are things that I like and some things I would change if given the opportunity. Given everything, I’m happy to have a paycheck and get to learn some new stuff. Good. Great. All that being said, I wouldn’t be sad if a company came out of nowhere and offered a substantial pay raise and/or promised me the ability to fight off aliens with my custom regular expression engine. Translation: I wouldn’t be sad to leave if the right offer came along.


What happens when said “sweep me off my feet” potential company calls my work phone to discuss possible employment opportunities? Such was the case for me this afternoon. I received an instant message from a girl in our tech support department saying that I had a Lawrence Jamison (do I know this guy?) on the line to speak to me. I was surprised at this since I’ve been at this company over 3 months and have not received (nor have needed to receive) any phone calls. I write code. Talk to someone else about the project details. I told the gal to send them to voicemail because I was “in the middle of a project” and “didn’t have time”. A few minutes later the voicemail comes through. Lawrence is apparently no one I know at all. He’s some guy I’ve never met wanting to “talk to me about some things”. He could be a member of the mob for all I know. Apparently he “found me on linked in”. So, I go to linked in and do a search for his name. There’s two results to the search, but one of the results has a shared connection to me, so I’m assuming that’s the guy. The best I can figure, he is a recruiter for a company looking to hire a Java developer. I’ve been investigating and it looks like a fairly viable opportunity, but I am wondering what in the world he was thinking by calling me at work. Isn’t that what linked in is for? Getting in contact with professionals in a professional way?

Maybe I’m just weird, but it seems like an odd way to go about things. Now that I know who this guy is (he didn’t even give me the company name he was with) I’ll call him up to get the scoop. Looks like a job offer, but we’ll see if his professionalism is better the second go around.

Note: names in this post may or may not be fudged.

05 Dec 2008

In Other News, I'm Apparently a Nerd

So I found this new java app the other day from wordle.net. It allows you to enter a block of text, a blog url, or a del.icio.us username to get a large body of text content. Using some really great algorithms they build a word cloud based on the frequency of words in the document. I ran the generator on my del.icio.us tags and generated the document you see on the left.

As I showed it to my brother-in-law he blurted out, “Man! You’re a nerd!” Ouch. Indeed it hurt for just a moment, a small fleeting moment. Then I got over it.

I also created a wordle from the content of this site a few days ago, that one is below. You should try it out, it’s really really cool!

05 Dec 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

My friend Ryan of RyanByrd.net fame (touted as “probably the coolest site in utah”) posted an article this morning per my recommendation about today being Day of the Ninja . He kindly added a link back to my tech site rand9.com for the tip, unwittingly catapulting me into website-release-mode. You see, though I have owned rand9.com since April-ish and have had plans to do many noteworthy things with it, I have yet to be “on the ball” about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been building it slowly and steadily since buying the domain, I just… haven’t gotten around to finishing it. Okay, you got me. I haven’t touched the thing for at least 3 months. Nevertheless, my intentions remain. For now, the masses will have to ogle at my ability to put a “Coming Soon”* site up in under 30 minutes. I hope you enjoy.

And I promise that I will do better to follow through on my posting, both here and at rand9.

* Not to be confused with the “ Under Construction” label common in the era of bad websites.