August 31, 2008

Pray For Rain, or, Why Religion and Politics Shouldn’t Mix

Filed under: General — Cory @ 6:33 pm

I could talk for hours about why I think religion should stay out of politics (my coworkers can attest to this). The guy below asked people to pray for rain during the Democratic National Convention. I guess he thinks God favors one political party over the other.

In fact, the weather was pretty much perfect for the DNC.

Maybe all those prayers were delayed, or maybe it’s punishment for all the jerks who felt it was a worthy thing to pray for. Either way, it was funny to learn that the first day of the Republican National Convention has been delayed due to really bad weather, Hurricane Gustav that is. Maybe they should start praying for lower gas prices, instead.

Republican Party, please stop making it hard for me to like you. I want to support you, really. Please sever that evangelical arm and focus on what the party is actually supposed to be about. You know, things like limited government, conservative spending, etc.

I could almost like McCain if he were younger (click that) and not so war-hungry. But his VP pick, Sarah Palin, really bugs me, and here’s why:

  • She does not accept evolutionary theory (maybe she also rejects the theory of gravity?)
  • She opposes funding stem cell research
  • She supports teaching Creationism in public schools as an alternative theory to evolution
  • She opposes birth control pills and condoms even among married couples
  • She opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest

She takes all of these stances in the name of religious extremism. Contrary to what many believe, the United States was not founded as a Christian nation. In fact, quite the opposite. The only mention of religion in the constitution by the founding fathers is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” The founding fathers were wise men. They knew how things play out when there is an official state religion. Religion and politics do not mix well.

For example, after pressure from evangelical groups, Bush has proposed to change the definition of abortion to include birth control. Birth control is abortion? Apparently, if you support evangelical politics. This is what we get when religious ideology guides our politicians.

Religion is fine and dandy, but imposing your beliefs on others is not. Religion should be a personal matter. People seem to think it is fine for a Christian politician to make Christian laws. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, including the U.S. There are now two Muslim congressmen, and there will be more, which is fine since everyone should be represented. But I wonder, how will evangelicals react to faith-based legislation when it’s introduced by a Muslim politician?

McCain is 72 and already has a history of health problems. His father and grandfather were both dead by 72. If he goes, Palin takes over. Honestly, I think it would be great for a woman to be president because she’d be less likely to be in a good-ole-boys club and would probably have a better chance of making the big changes that need to happen in Washington. But Palin just is too much. I give it to her, she’s committed to her stances, it’s just that I strongly disagree with much of what she supports.

Ugh, don’t get me started… :)

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August 23, 2008

Writing is Fun!

Filed under: General — Cory @ 4:41 pm

I wasn’t all that great of a student in college. Actually, I wasn’t a great student in high school, either. I really like learning things (across many subjects), but I guess I just didn’t like having to prove that I actually learned it. Of course, that’s how you earn good grades.

Probably the one thing that got me through college was being able to write. Math and science majors have to prove their answers and back them up with facts. We History and English majors just had to write and be able to B.S. enough to get by. Worked for me!

But lately I’ve been writing about something I find far more interesting than History, namely Linux and DNS. I know that most of the world disagrees with me, but I find it a lot more fun to write about DNS internals than about the Storming of the Bastille.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to write for the premier Open Source magazine, Linux Journal. My first article is published in this month’s issue (September 2008) and is titled “djbdns: More Than Just a Mouthful of Consonants.” It is amazing how much fun writing can be when it’s about something you are really into (djbdns is my favorite piece of software). So far I’ve received email from several readers saying that they liked the article and decided to switch to djbdns after reading what I wrote. Sweet!

I’ve also been contributing stories to the Linux Journal website. It’s especially cool to see my stories get posted to Digg and Reddit and become popular. :) Here’s what I’ve written so far:

My buddy, Will, also wrote an article in the September issue, titled Nginx: the High-Performance Web Server and Reverse Proxy.

And there’s more on the way, both on the web and in print. I’m currently working on article for the December issue of Linux Journal, so be sure to check it out!

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August 18, 2008

What Would You Do With An Extra $1,000,000,000?

Filed under: General — Cory @ 12:04 am

About a year ago I watched “The Rockefellers“, a PBS documentary about the famous “rags-to-royal” American family. The documentary was fascinating, but something that stuck with me was what John D. Rockefeller Sr. did with all the money he accumulated.

In the late 1880′s if you had a lot of money and wanted to “give back” then you would support soup kitchens or homeless shelters, or give to churches. This is how charity worked back then. But when Rockefeller decided to begin giving back he had a small problem: how was he to give away hundreds of millions of dollars?

You may remember Brewster’s Millions, the movie where Richard Pryor plays Montgomery “Monty” Brewster and is tasked with spending $30 million in 30 days in order to test his value of money. Rockefeller had a similar task (although he certainly knew the value of his hard earned bucks). It’s like going into a dollar store and being told you have to spend $10,000 before you can leave. It would be a lot harder than you think.

Rockefeller, like Andrew Carnegie, disliked the idea of funding soup kitchens primarily because he saw it as a sort of band-aid approach to giving. Giving to those less fortunate was indeed a noble thing to do, but he felt that it did nothing to move humanity forward. Instead, Rockefeller took a page from Carnegie’s essay “The Gospel of Wealth” and formed The Rockefeller Foundation with his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Together they gave large sums of money to support education, particularly to help start colleges for African Americans in the southern states, as well as to fund medical research. They gave $35 million to help jump start the University of Chicago. They restored Colonial Williamsburg and Versailles (yes, that Versailles). They donated tens of thousands of acres of land to create several national parks. They supported science, and built churches. To date their foundation has given away over $14 billion dollars, and still has around $4 billion in assets today.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both had the same problem as John D. Rockefeller Sr. After much research, Gates decided to model the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation after the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Buffett followed his lead and nearly doubled the size of the foundation when he pledged to donate $30 billion dollars worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock over the next few years, bringing the total endowment to nearly $70 billion.

Like Brewster, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a deadline. The foundation has to give away its last penny within 50 years of the death of the last living trustee. The foundation has three trustees: Bill Gates (currently 52 years old), Melinda Gates (44), and Warren Buffett (77).

The primary goals of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are to improve health care and decrease extreme poverty around the globe, and to open up more opportunities for education in the U.S., especially with respect to technology.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. once wrote:

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty”

It sounds almost like a quote out of Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” essay. Andrew Carnegie was convinced that successful wealthy entrepreneurs had a duty to dispense their wealth back into the public, preferably through calculated giving to worthy organizations. He felt that there was a responsibility to do good things with ones wealth, and that future generations who would inherit the wealth were prone to squandering it in less than noble ways. Soup kitchens did not qualify for Carnegie’s charity, nor those who couldn’t be bothered to help themselves. Carnegie funded more than 1,700 public libraries across the United States because he felt it could give less fortunate individuals a way to get ahead if they just were willing to put in the effort.

It is an interesting problem, to say the least. These men all used their creative abilities to amass enormous amounts of wealth, more than they could ever spend in a lifetime. (Andrew Carnegie tried to spend it all, and when he realized it was impossible he created the first philanthropic trust in the United States, the Carnegie Corporation so that it would be able to continue spending after his death.)

It got me to thinking about what I would want to focus on if I had the resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. It seems that most of these efforts are focused on third world countries, which no doubt need the most help. But I think I would invest in science and education in the United States. It’s pretty clear that the U.S. has fallen behind in our science programs (stem cell research, anyone?). And the state of our public education system is a also serious problem, not just for the students, but also for the rest of us. After all, we have to live with the citizens those schools are producing (they will be our neighbors, our coworkers, and most importantly, they will be voters). It’s quite scary, really. I’m not sure the problem with the U.S. public education system can be completely solved, but I am sure it’s something that can be improved. I also believe it’s a problem where money can help a lot (almost certainly more than $1 billion though).

What issues would you focus on if you could start a foundation with $1 billion?

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