The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

April 13, 2008

Settling A Homebrew Beer Blogger Dispute

The homebrewing community is, by and large, a very helpful, generous, and kind group. They’re quick to help each other, always ready to offer advice, and enjoy the fraternity of “do-it-yourself” mentality that we all share.

So, when a few homebrewing bloggers got into a 90’s-style internet flame war, we knew this could not stand. Travis from is a homebrewer in New York. A Syracuse fan and a northerner, he’ll brave the elements to brew, even if it means dressing like a gay Eskimo. The Monday Night Brewery guys, Jonathan, Joel, and Jeff, met a few years ago in Bible study, and wish to help the beer-starved Southeast by opening their own brewery in Georgia within the next few years. Plus, they’re huge Bryan Adams fans, which makes Travis’ brokeback overalls seem far more normal. The flame war begun, with Travis intimating that MNB was its own grandpaw, and MNB suggesting that Travis simply can’t brew. There was only one way to settle this – man to man, mano a mano, cerveza a cerveza! A brew-off!

So they decided to send samples of their IPA to myself, and two other brewers. This is good, as I consider myself a connoisseur of IPA’s, and live in the mecca of the IPA, Southern California. So, two packages arrived, each containing two IPA’s from each brewer, and my brother-in-law and I took to the task of settling this dispute!

First, the intangibles. MNB sent two bottles of their beer with their custom labels, a very nice presentation. Travis sent his beer in two Saranac bottles that he had neglected to even remove the original label. MNB sent a few bottles of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, one of the beers I missed from my time in Georgia (which I liked so much that I brew my own RyePA), along with a few Monday Night Brewery pint glasses. Of course, I am evaluating purely on the beer, so the bribes presentation is not a factor in judging.

Travis’ IPA:

Pours a pale gold color, with a strong head that persists for quite some time and leaves very nice lacing on the glass. This got me a bit excited, as the color was exactly what I want in an IPA. I took a few nice long whiff’s of the beer, and got very little hop aroma. What I did pick up was a slightly heavy ester & higher alcohol aroma, suggesting high fermentation temps. The mouthfeel was very thin, with low to moderate maltiness. Taste followed similarly, with a very thin body, mild bitterness, and little to no hop flavor/aroma. The thin body made the beer feel a bit “hollow”, but without a heavy hop aroma, there was little to make up for the light body. I don’t mind a light-bodied IPA, in fact I prefer it to be lighter and more crisp, but it didn’t have the “clean” dry taste or the in-your-face hop characteristic that I expect.

Monday Night Brewery IPA:

Pours an amber-reddish color, small head, but the head persists while drinking the beer. The aroma had a very mild hop character, but picked up more maltiness. No higher alcohols or heavy esters detected. In the mouthfeel, there was definitely more body, and more sweetness came through. I wouldn’t call this beer a “malt-bomb”, which is good, as an IPA should not be one, but the malt is prominent. Tastewise, there was a good balance between malt and bitterness, but the balance was more appropriate for an American Pale Ale than an IPA. The beer could be well served by additional bitterness and dry-hopping.

The Result:

I had already heard that Travis had conceded defeat, and the Canadian judge had awarded the win to MNB, and I thought that I might find this to be a runaway win. Instead, it was actually a very close match. Both beers would really have been improved with some dry-hopping, as they did have bitterness, but not the pungent hop aroma. I think the thin body and more harsh higher alcohol I detected in Travis’ brew would be considered a technical flaw, whereas my view of the MNB beer is that it was a good beer, but not a great IPA. But, the results were unanimous (okay, it was only myself and my brother-in-law*), and we also decide in favor of the boys from Atlanta. It was the cleaner technical beer, and in general was something that I’d be more likely to sit down and drink a few in an evening.

So when is round 2?

Read more of this entry… » linked with The Unrepentant Individual » Settling A Homebrew Beer Blogger Dispute...
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:10 am || Permalink || Comments (4) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Beer

November 21, 2007


It almost passed by without me realizing it, but The Liberty Papers is now two years old. It’s come a long way in the last two years, from a third-rate blog that nobody has ever heard of, to a second-tier blog pulling in thousands of visitors each day. I’ve had a lot of fun over there, including having the chance to meet several of the contributors in person while traveling. Head on over and give some congrats.

Oh, and it did pass by without me realizing it, but The Unrepentant Individual has now passed 3 years! I do pretty much neglect the blog these days, as I find I have little to write about other than personal news, and keep all of my political writing over at TLP. As I adjust to parenthood and get more free time, though, I hope to find some clearer focus for the blog, and keep it to write about things I’m truly interested in.

Until then, you can always stop by for baby pictures!

Wyatt and I out for a stroll:


Wyatt getting ready for his baptism:


Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:04 am || Permalink || Comments (5) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Blog News, Libertarianism, Personal Life

July 11, 2007

Terrorist Metalheads Coming To An Airport Near You!

James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, looks suspiciously like a terrorist to the Brits.

I’d describe the full story, but Justin of autoDogmatic has done a much better job. He explains that government is quite capable of dishing out its nonsensical harassment and justice for all:

James Hetfield, lead-singer of Metallica, learned this week that the UK’s Luton airport was not on his list of places he can roam freely. Sad but true, Hetfield was detained due to his “Taliban-like beard” making officials nervous. One wonders if the rock star felt like an outlaw torn or just another victim of the master of puppets, big brother government. But for his devil’s dance, quickly explaining to the officials that he was a rock star, and not a terrorist, Hetfield may have felt a bit … I don’t know … minus human? Though Hetfield escaped relatively unscathed, nay more a hero of the day, I have no doubt that the memory of his detiainment will remain though nothing else matters.

Let this be a lesson: in the land of wolf and man, the bell tolls for us all … until the-thing-that-should-not-be sleeps, that is.

I’d warn those governments about Hetfield, though… He’s been known to fight fire with fire, and may leave you blackened.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:03 pm || Permalink || Comments (5) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Humor, News, Pop Culture, Snark, Terrorism

April 25, 2007

What Made Cho Do It?

It’s a question that a lot of people these days are asking. Some folks think he was just an evil sonofabitch, and that people like him should be locked up simply for existing. Other folks have a bit more of a nuanced view, because they have a little bit of an understanding of the conditions that lead to a guy like Cho.

I would point out this post at Jacqueline Passey’s blog, where she mentions that she had the occasional fantasy when she was a young’un of sending mythical dragons (yep, she’s a sci-fi fan) off to take her childhood tormentors to experience the celestial dirt nap. Quite a debate has taken off in the comments, as the epic battle between those people who were picked on in school and those people who weren’t rages. At the same time, I’d point out a post that Mike at the No Angst Blog brings up about one of Cho’s victims. This is one of those kids who would have been described as an “at-risk” youth, but turned his life around to become a truly model citizen, the sort that any father would have loved to have court his daughter.

Clearly, the comments at Jacqueline’s place point out a disconnect between those who understand Cho and those who don’t. To put it simply, the folks who understand him know exactly where he came from, and exactly what sort of hell he might have gone through during his life. Not that this in any way excuses what he did, because nothing is justification for murdering innocent people. But I think that Jacqueline, her commenter Phil (who occasionally stops by here), Mike’s subject (and Cho’s victim) Matt La Porte, and even I, understand what might have led to Cho’s actions. We might have seen the same sort of treatment that led to his actions, but we had enough strength as people to overcome that experience. Obviously I can’t speak for any of them, I can only tell my own story.

Childhood, for the popular kids, is a land of milk and honey. For kids like me, it was hell. I can’t for the life of me understand what it was that made me so much “different”. But I know from an early age, probably at least back to 3rd and 4th grade, I was picked on. I think part of it was a defensive thing, because I was one of the “nerds” who was in the gifted program. I know for a fact that part of it was my voice, which for some unknown reason has an odd nasal characteristic (which I think, thankfully, has lessened over time, thanks to puberty which made it deep, and years of smoking which took out some of the nasal character). But a great deal of it, I’m sure, is that from an early age I never really understood or took part in the social hierarchy. I never really understood the rules. I never knew how to stand up for myself and fight back when I was picked on. The even stranger thing about it was that early in life, I found myself growing bigger than those people who were picking on me. As a freshman in high school, I was bigger than most of the seniors. But the nasty thing about it is that those people who would pick on others can sense when they’ve found a target that won’t strike back, no matter how big they are, and they torment that sort of person even more aggressively.

When you’re in a place in life like that, you have a sense of despondence that most people don’t understand. They don’t even have the capability to understand it. After all, to the kids who weren’t picked on, “it’s just high school”. “It’s not that bad.” No, sorry, assholes, but it IS that bad. When you’re in middle school and high school, you don’t know anything different. There were times in high school that I even contemplated suicide, because I simply wanted an escape. But I just had this sense inside that maybe, when I finally got out of that hell, I could triumph. I thought to myself that the real world can’t be as superficial and idiotic as the high school land of cliques and “prom court”.

Luckily for myself, I had a couple of things in my life that helped. None of them were really related to school, though. I was in a large high school, and that made it a little easier to have a few acquaintances who faced some of the same challenges. Thankfully, I also have a very close friend who I’ve known since I was 2, that helped me through some of these times. He wasn’t as much of an outsider as I was, since he found his niche in the band, but I think he was able to understand some of what was going on in my life. As a result, he’s been my lifelong best friend, was best man in my wedding, and is the only person in my entire high school with which I keep regular correspondence.

But the real thing that made it bearable was withdrawal to a safe haven. When I was 11, my parents enrolled me in martial arts, and I was able to take my experiences there and run with it. Much like the victim of Cho that Mike profiles in the above link, the sort of rigidly-enforced rank structure, and the idea that anyone who applies himself can succeed in a merit-based system, allowed me to both express myself and find an outlet for some of my issues. As I grew into my role at the karate school, I started to also be given responsibilities and privileges. I became an instructor, and I saw how some of the younger students looked up to me. This started to give me the sense of self-worth that classmates were trying to take away from me. The day I earned my black belt, I really began to gain confidence in myself, and understand that I was actually accomplishing something pretty special. Even more fulfilling was the school’s demonstration team. The largest demonstration we ever gave was in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000. It was my participation in that team that made me realize that I had talents and skills, and that there was a world out there that would value those talents, even if my classmates would not. (That experience was also what helped me conquer my fears of public speaking.) To this day, I consider my martial arts experience as something that really saved me as a person. Had I not had something that could both be an outlet for the pain I felt at school, and which could also fulfill my human needs for achievement at an age where I really needed to feel some self-worth, I have no idea where I’d be today (or if I’d be here at all).

I never really faced those people at my high school as an equal, because I had an outlet and never really felt that I had to. Things got a bit tougher when I got to college, and again, I was lucky enough to use the lessons I’d learned to get me through. When I got into college, I never thought I’d have joined a fraternity. But one night, I went up with a friend from the dorms to the house he was pledging, and immediately felt a connection with some of the folks there. They were a group of laid-back, relaxed guys. They weren’t the pretentious jerks I’d seen at other houses. It seemed like they were a group of guys I could be happy living with. So I ended up rushing, getting a bid, pledging, and moved into the house my sophomore year. It was then that I began to face some trouble. You see, when you live in a house with 50 other testosterone-fueled 18-23 year olds, there’s a lot of back and forth ribbing that goes on. But I’d never been exposed to that, other than being picked on as a child, and so I fell into my old patterns of being hurt by that behavior, instead of standing up for myself. And began to fall into the despondence I had experienced in high school. But I struggled through it, and I suddenly had an epiphany. If I didn’t show them that they hurt me, they didn’t get any enjoyment out of it. All of a sudden I started to learn how to play the give-and-take of jocular insults, instead of being the victim. I began to see a very pronounced change. Suddenly the people who would get on my case and throw out a jagged verbal barb weren’t the people who were trying to hurt me. Those folks would head towards easier marks. The people who would do something like that were the types who knew I had something to throw right back at them. All of a sudden I understood the difference between playful ribbing, and hurtful attacks. And when I learned that, I realized that nobody in the world could hurt me unless I let them.

There are days that I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone through what I have. And truthfully, I’ve grown to really like the person I’ve become. I don’t think I’d be that person if I didn’t have the experiences I’ve had. Part of what has made me a fiercely independent person is the fact that I was never part of the “in” crowd, and I grew to choose my own values instead of what the “popular” kids chose. But I look back on all the things that have gone on, and I see the ways it could have been different. I’ve seen what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had to face. I’ve seen the sort of treatment that Cho Seung-Hui endured. And I understand what might have driven them to the actions they took. It’s not right. It’s not something that should have happened. But I’ve been in a despondent stage where all I wanted was an escape, and where I felt rage towards the people who were making my life hell. I was strong enough to fight through it, with the help I had available to me. I was raised by good, loving parents who gave me other options. I took those other options, and used them to make myself a stronger person. And these days, I consider myself to be a strong, independent, ethical person, who took the attacks of youth and fashioned them into armor which has protected me ever since. Folks like Cho or the Columbine kids didn’t have those outlets, and didn’t have the tools I had to work through those problems. And they lashed out as a result.

I look at the kids who are sitting in the position I was 12 years ago, as a confused, hurt, depressed 16-year-old, and feel truly sorry for them. I know what it feels like to be an outsider in the high school culture, where it’s only acceptable to be “in”. People who have never been there don’t have a clue how painful it is to think that there’s no place in the world where you have value. It’s a false belief, to be sure, because in the grand scheme of things, high school culture is stupid and pointless and has nothing to do with the real world. But how many kids see beyond that, when the world around them doesn’t seem to offer any understanding? It’s a false belief, but it SEEMS real.

So there’s a message in this story. And that message goes out to the people reading this who are in the same place I was 12 years ago. I have a feeling that those sorts of people have followed this story to the end, because I’m sure you feel like I’m speaking right to you. And I am. I’ve been there. I know how much it hurts. And no matter how much it feels like there’s no way out, it gets better. The world’s a really big place, and the speed at which everyone forgets who the prom queen was will make your head spin. 10 years after high school, when that prom queen is on her third kid and has lost her figure, all she has left to hold on to in life is her memories of the “good old days”. You, on the other hand, have the world open to you. Dream big, hit the throttle once you graduate, and leave the rest of those assholes in your dust.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 12:20 am || Permalink || Comments (7) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Personal Life

March 24, 2007


An interesting piece of satire by the Scott Stein, about the pill that makes you taller. Well, not really, the pill that makes you THINK you’re taller.

The pill didn’t take immediate effect. For about 10 minutes you felt nothing. Then you were taller. That is, you believed you were. The drug convinced its user, whatever his height, that he was three inches taller. It was a new technology, and its power was limited, if perfect in its simplicity and specificity. Three inches was all it added. Gargantuanx could not alter the physical world–boxes of pasta on supermarket shelves which were out of reach before taking the pill did not get any closer after a dose. But under its influence, one was certain that the shelf of pasta was three inches higher than it had been, so the illusion that one was three inches taller was intact.

Heading down the proverbial rabbit hole [which seems an apt analogy when "one pill makes you larger"], the questions comes up: should Gargantuanx be prohibited? Thus, the name of the piece, Garghibition.

Check it out. If you have the same sort of bizarre sense of humor as I do– and you probably wouldn’t be here if you didn’t– you’ll like it.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:04 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Humor

March 19, 2007

News At The Liberty Papers

Over at The Liberty Papers, we crossed over the 100,000 “unique visitor” mark back in late January. Needless to say, myself and the other contributors were a little happy to see that.

In the 55 days since that occurred, we racked up another hundred thou, and we just crossed the 200,000 mark.

I doubt that many of you who used to read this blog for political reasons haven’t found your way over there. But if you haven’t, or if you’re politically minded and would like to check it out, head on over. The site is updated more often, and there are quite a lot of good conversations in the comments.

(Note: To give a sense of perspective, The Unrepentant Individual has had about 80,000 unique visitors in the 29 months I’ve had it open. If The Liberty Papers has a couple more good days, it will get close to that number THIS MONTH).

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:55 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Blog News

March 12, 2007

Hoops Time

Well, March Madness is just about upon us. Purdue managed to squeak into the Tourney, but has a tough road as a 9 seed. Assuming they can beat 8-seeded Arizona, they’ll walk into #1 seed Florida in the second round. There’s no shame in losing to the #1 seed, though. Purdue has a relatively new coach and a young team, so that would provide something to build on next year. Considering how unlikely we all thought before the season that we’d even make it to the dance, that’s not bad.

I know everyone probably has constant offers of bracket competitions, I’d suggest heading over to Coyote Blog to join in his now annual tournament. I participated last year and it was a good time.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 3:47 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Purdue, Sports, Uncategorized

February 2, 2007

John Edwards Has A New Blogger On Staff

Hit & Run is reporting on John Edwards’ new blogger, Amanda Marcotte. Some of you remember Amanda as the raving feminist* from Pandagon. Well, it seems that one of the earliest things Amanda has done after the announcement of her new position is to go back and delete a post where she jumped to conclusions about the Duke rape case.

Perhaps she should look further back in her history, to the blog Mouse Words. Before she got picked up by Pandagon, she made a name for herself on that blog. Back in the day, I was a very new blogger, and adopted the resident libertarian position, debating her.

But for those of you “right-wingers” like me (I include libertarians in that group because to a leftist like Amanda, anyone who doesn’t agree is a right-winger), you should know something about her. She thinks that those of us on the right are either evil or stupid. I got into it with her on this post at Mouse Words, dealing with creationism and public schools. It was then that I realized she divides right-leaning individuals into one of two groups, and as I pointed out at the time, she thinks I’m in the wrong one.

I’ve realized that to the left, there are two types of right-wingers: the stupid, and the evil. The evil is a very small, powerful group. Their goal is to find ways to destroy the country in such a way that it shores up their power, and makes them the ruling elite of the country. The stupid group is everyone else that votes Republican. They are pawns, too dim to understand that they are being manipulated by their evil string-pullers.

Now, I tried to defend myself and my right-wing brethren, and mentioned that we are not trying to destroy America as we know it. We have honestly weighed the policies, and believe that the policies that we are supporting are in the long-term interests of our nation as a whole. My frank response got me this:

“Brad, I don’t think you do. I think the people who want to be our evil overlords dump millions of dollars into right wing think tanks to come up with arguments that everyday folks think sound reasonable enough and then manufacture crisises so that everyday folks think that we have no choice but to implement the plans that the right wing think tanks come up with.”

Looks like I must have landed myself in the “stupid” group. Which undoubtedly has me a little angry. I don’t consider myself to be a slouch intellectually, and I’m enough of a skeptic to watch out when people are trying to exploit me. Despite my slight megalomania and delusions of grandeur, I’m not evil. The only explanation I have left is that they must be drugging my water.

This is the kind of mentality that we have to deal with from the left. Obviously our policies are absolutely atrocious, so to support them we must be evil or stupid.

So, if Amanda takes down her older old blog, remember one thing. If you don’t agree with her, she thinks you’re evil, or you’re stupid. And if the folks at Hit & Run are right, she really thinks you’re stupid, because she thinks she can just remove her previous words and they’ll go away. As they ask, hasn’t she ever heard of Google Cache or the Wayback Machine? And she thinks I’m the daft one?

Read more of this entry… »

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:10 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Blogging, Politics

January 14, 2007

Traveling Again…

I’ll be in CA all week, and in company meetings most of each day. Posting will be light.

In the meantime, head on over to The Liberty Papers, where the posting is more frequent and much more interesting that it is here.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:31 am || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Blog News, Personal Life

January 13, 2007

New Libertarian Social News Site

Many of you are familiar with, a news aggregator site where the actions of the community of readers propel “worthy” stories ahead of the rest. Essentially, they’re designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, Digg has some inherent biases and a herd mentality that usually forces smaller blogs and news items, despite their worth, to be overlooked. That being said, I have submitted stories there, because free advertising doesn’t have to be incredibly effective to still be worthwhile.

Recently a new site devoted to the libertarian side of the internet has opened. Liberty Loop operates on the same sort of principle as Digg, but the content is mostly libertarian-oriented. It’s also a new site, so submitted stories are more able to rise to the top and be seen than on the larger sites, and based on it’s libertarian theme, the stories are likely to be seen by their true target audience. Check it out, I’ve been browsing a bit already and it looks like there’s some good content over there.

Hat Tip: Hit & Run

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:11 am || Permalink || Comments (3) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Blogging, Internet, Libertarianism, Technology

January 6, 2007


I’ve written a few times about engineering. But never have I seen engineering, and more specifically, a description of what makes a person an engineer, more clearly explained than over at Chris Byrne’s blog, The Anarchangel. In a post aptly titled Engineering, he asks the fundamental question: “What makes a good, or great engineer?” Some excerpts below.

On being an engineer by personality rather than education:

I’m an engineer, because it’s what I am, mind body and soul. It’s wired into me at the very base level of my intelligence and personality. Sure I could have chosen to do something else, some other profession; and I’ve certainly held jobs that had little (on the surface) to do with engineering; but an engineer is what I am, no matter what I do. Even serving in the Air Force, and doing security work; I’ve always had an engineering mindset and method, because it’s simply who I am…

This couldn’t have described me more accurately. I think I was born an engineer. I think I was an engineer when I was 5 years old and took my Fisher Price tape recorder apart “just to see what was inside”. I was an engineer when I was a teenager and built a battery pack and shock-mounted a CD player and speakers onto my bicycle in order to be able to pump tunes while I rode. And I’m an engineer today, whether it comes to building my own DVR, trying to brew better beer, or simply trying to understand how to better arrange my yard and planting so that my grass grows well in the low-sunlight backyard. What does it come down to? A question of how a thing works and how I can make it work better, as Chris explains below.

On what engineering consists of:

A great engineer is a great engineer, no matter what their discipline; no, not all knowledge and experience transfers, but if someone makes great mechanical engineer, they most likely could make a great aerospace engineer, or nuclear engineer with the proper motivation, training, and experience; because great engineering requires three fundamental drives or abilities in edition to training, education, and experience:

  1. 1. The innate understanding of how components, systems, and methodologies interact with each other; and the ability to distinguish and determine causation, correlation, and effect.
  2. 2. The absolute drive to figure out the “how” of everything around them.
  3. 3. The ability to generalize knowledge, experience, and insight gained on one system, component. or methodology; to other systems, components, and methodologies; similar or dissimilar.

We call the synthesis of these things, ingenuity; and it’s what makes engineers something other than technicians or scientists.

“How” is the question of the engineer. I don’t think I go through a day where I don’t ask “how” about something. Even at my job, when I get a result back from our R&D engineers and they say “well, if you remove this resistor, it will fix the problem”, I don’t trust the answer unless I can figure out how that resistor caused the problem and how it’s removal solves it. “How” is all-consuming. And there’s a reason for this. You can’t understand “why” without “how”.

For example, beer is a pretty simple liquid, when you really think about it. Combine barley, hops, yeast, and water, and you get an alcoholic beverage called beer. But it’s not really that simple, because the same barley, hops, yeast and water can create an absolutely beautiful brew, or it can create something not even worth drinking, and the results are all tied up in the “how”. Often new homebrewers know what they want as a result, and know the ingredients it takes to get there, but there’s a big roadmap in between. Understanding the “how” is important, because without knowing the “how”, you may end up with something great, or you may end up with something disgusting, but unless you know “how” you don’t know “why”. Beer is a lot more than the sum of its parts. And as Chris describes below, it’s the sum of the parts that needs to be understood, not simply the parts themselves.

On how engineers see the world and the systems within it:

Now, take what I’ve just said makes a great engineer; and stop thinking about mechanical systems like cars, and computers.

Engineers are not just mechanics, or machinists, or programmers; they understand SYSTEMS, and by that I don’t mean computer systems, or tooling systems or anything else normal people think of when they hear the word system.

A system, is a set of inter-related and interacting components, actions, decisions, behaviors, results, inputs, outputs, and feedback; be it a machine, or a busy intersection, or a city, or a society, or a person; they’re all systems.

Normal people look at the world and they see people and places and things going about their business; engineers see something entirely different. We see systems interacting at every level; every action, reaction, result, behavior… they’re all interconnected.

This is why an electrical engineer like myself can look at beer and learn to understand it, or look at a car and learn to understand it, look at a production line and learn to understand it. I don’t look at a computer as a collection of parts, it’s a system in itself. When you understand the rules of a system, you inherently are able to deal with that system as if you created it. I want to brew better beer, so I do everything I can to understand the process, from start to finish, of creating beer, which is a system of interactions within itself and with the outside world. When I said I wanted to open a school, I said I didn’t want to teach kids how to fit into the system, I wanted to teach them how the system works. It’s because every day, I look around me and try to figure out how the system works, because I can only give myself the best chance to benefit from it by understanding its workings.

Part of my writings about politics are a desire to figure out and improve the system. I don’t say government doesn’t work because we have the wrong people running it, I say government can’t work because the system has flawed incentives that cause it to fail. It doesn’t matter all that much who we elect unless the system itself changes. My recent dissatisfaction with the Republicans is largely because they promised to change the system, but instead simply said “plug me in”. Of course, understanding the “How” of a political system doesn’t necessarily allow it to be changed, because often the “How” is highly linked to ballot choices of people who refuse to even question or investigate that same “How”.

In that respect, Chris also points out that any political or human system is complex, and based upon some people acting unpredictably or irrationally. He uses that as a suggestion that trying to understand and fix that system is bound to make an engineer like myself unhappy. That’s true to an extent, but if you build that irrationality and unpredictability into your model of understand the system, it’s not as depressing as one might think. Engineers, by nature, understand the difference between “working perfectly” and “working well enough”. Nothing works perfectly, and while you want to get close to it, you only need to get close enough to meet your requirement, which is usually short of perfection. You can’t expect irrational people to behave rationally, but if you can modify the system such that they’re largely irrelevant to its continued operation, it’ll work “well enough”.

I didn’t necessarily go to Purdue to “become an engineer”. I went to Purdue to get the education I needed to get a job as an Electrical Engineer. The desire and the aptitude for engineering were always there, and come out in everything I do, not just from 9-5. There are a lot of people who never went to school for an engineering degree, and wouldn’t consider their job title to be “engineering”. But some of them will understand what Chris described as applying to them, because they’re still engineers, even if the title isn’t there.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 12:58 pm || Permalink || Comments (5) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Beer, Personal Life

December 20, 2006

Interesting Quote

“One has to be really well read to debate a libertarian.”

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:55 am || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Libertarianism

December 18, 2006

Book Review: BMOC

One of my daily reads for quite some time has been Coyote Blog. The author, Warren Meyer, is a business owner out west, as well as a libertarian. It’s always one of my top spots for economics and free trade writing, as well as a first-hand account of how ridiculous government regulation has become. If you’re not reading it, add it to your list.

Last month, Warren’s novel, BMOC, was released. As I am a voracious reader, I’m always on the lookout for new books. I managed* to get a copy of BMOC last week, and read it on my flights to and from Texas this weekend. The book is a suspense-murder-intrigue type of plot:

Book Description
Susan Hunter is a brilliant but lazy student at the Harvard Business School, who has a long-term plan for succeeding at Harvard and getting a high-paying job with the absolute minimum of work. Her plans begin to awry when she receives an invitation for a job interview with Preston Marsh, the quirky millionaire who has built his fortune on oddball businesses from selling designer musical tones to harvesting coins in fountains. Marsh convinces Susan to abandon her path of least resistance to work in his new business called BMOC, which guarantees its student clients that it will make them popular. But nothing in the job description prepares Susan for getting sent to LA to investigate a young woman’s suicide. Susan has to struggle to adapt her business school training to what increasingly appears to be a murder investigation, as a consortium of media companies, tort lawyers, and even a US Senator fight to hide the truth. And that was before they started shooting at her.

Now, I should lay out a few reviewer’s ground rules here. I’m not a literary critic. I very rarely dislike any novels. So when I say I liked the book, that’s not setting the bar very high. So I’ll try to go into greater depth, but at the very least I found it to be a very enjoyable read, and recommend it for that reason.

One of the things that struck me as a reader of Coyote Blog was the extent to which I noticed Warren’s writing voice and style carried over into the novel. Most of it, of course, was inside things that most non-readers of the blog wouldn’t pick up on, of course, which is to say that it certainly doesn’t detract from the novel. But writing about an business student allows Warren to throw in a little bit of his own subject matter. And, of course, the main character just happens to have a poli/econ blog called “Spreadsheet Girl”, for which Warren’s own blogging experience obviously gave him the knowledge to write accurately about. It’s not like he’s calling the internet a series of tubes. I should point out, though, that it’s not overwhelming. Yes, the main character happens to have a blog, but it’s an aside to the book, not a central theme (as you could worry about some bloggers-turned-authors doing).

Beyond this, the plot is pretty good, and it flows in a cohesive manner. Warren, as far as I could tell, manages mostly to stay away from some of the problems inherent in murder-suspense thrillers, where the plot is just too incredibly convenient to be plausible. The book is definitely a page-turner, but not at the cost of character development. The action sequences make sense, and there is a bit of poetic justice and humor in certain scenes.

For those of you who look at books for their ideological bent, Warren takes a big shot at government, media, and tort lawyers. All while making the entrepreneur/businessman into the “good guy”. Part of this was by design, as he said that he was sick of reading books always portraying the “evil” capitalist businessman. But this isn’t a “libertarian” book. This is a murder-suspense novel, and it doesn’t feel like you’re being beaten over the head with philosophy.

Above all, if you’re looking for a new read, give it a shot. Is it going to win any literary awards? Probably not, but it’s well-written, and you’ll be supporting a fellow libertarian blogger.

Read more of this entry… »

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December 8, 2006

I Don’t Know Art, But I Know What I Like!

Stripping is art, Norway decides

A Norwegian appeals court has ruled that striptease is an art form and should therefore be exempt from value-added tax (VAT).

The owners of the Diamond Go Go Bar in Oslo had refused to pay VAT of 25% on entry fees as tax authorities demanded.

The local authority had taken the club to court over its refusal to pay tax.

Lawyers for the club’s owners argued that striptease dancers were stage artists just like sword-swallowers and comedians and deserved the same status.

“Striptease, in the way it is practised in this case, is a form of dance combined with acting,” the judges ruled, according to AFP news agency.

Hey, plenty of Renaissance artists painted nudes, so I’ll buy that it’s an art form.

Funny, though, we used to refer to it in college as going to either the “library” or the “ballet”. I guess going to the “art gallery” makes just as much sense :-)

Hat Tip: Below The Beltway

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:57 am || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, News, Snark, Taxes

November 26, 2006

Notice: Bloody Leprechaun Irish Red Ale contains no blood!

And Dragon Sausage doesn’t contain dragon:

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers.

Jon Carthew, 45, who makes the sausages, said yesterday that he had not received any complaints about the absence of real dragon meat. He said: “I don’t think any of our customers believe that we use dragon meat in our sausages. We use the word because the dragon is synonymous with Wales.”

Yep. The Bloody Leprechaun Irish Red Ale contains no leprechaun.

Oh, and when someone asks you to go “snipe hunting”, you’re probably not going to catch any snipe.

Hat Tip: The Liberty Papers

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 3:42 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, News, Snark

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