Fighting the good fight

February 21, 2011 – “May you live in interesting times.”

That quotation is an old Chinese proverb sometimes known as the Chinese curse. It certainly doesn’t sound offensive, but it is mainly used when one wishes that another person’s life is surrounded by worries and obstacles.

The Chinese government may very well be muttering those words to the protesters who took to the streets in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other Chinese cities over the weekend. Fueled by political instability and anti-government sentiment, the Chinese people are voicing their opinions loudly, perhaps motivated by the people demanding those same changes in the Middle East.

What began in Tunisia in December, brought on by poor living conditions and the lack of political freedom, has been dubbed the Jasmine Revolution by the media. It moved onto Egypt, successfully ousting President Mubarak, then spread to Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and several other Arab nations before making an impact in China.

Sadly, too many protesters have been injured or killed, paying the ultimate price for their cause. But those brave activists, who knew the risks, are speaking against their oppressive governments, and are making a huge difference for the future of their nations.

Here in the United States, the people are taking to the streets in safer, more peaceful protests against Wisconsin’s proposed legislation to reduce union bargaining power. Their cause is now gaining support from unions in other states, such as Minnesota and Michigan.

Whether you agree or disagree with the protestors, this is democracy in action, something many people in the United States may take for granted. It is what our forefathers fought for in the Revolutionary War when they envisioned a free America. These union battles seem small compared to those fighting overseas for basic human needs, such freedom, food and shelter, but they are important to those voicing their opinions.

Unions were once the backbone of this country. They were necessary to keep things fair and they helped build the middle class by assuring workers decent wages. Today, because of these unions, we have employment laws and regulations in place to protect employees in all industries, whether they are union or non-union, not to mention lawyers keeping a watchful eye on the system.

So, while I may not see the great need for unions in our current society, I am inspired by anyone who fights for what they believe in.

That’s what democracy is all about.

My first milestone

February 20, 2011 – It’s official. This is my 100th blog post.

It may not seem like much, but it’s an key landmark considering I started this blog a mere 102 days ago.

Way back then, on that chilly November morning, I clicked the publish button to go live, and entered the blogosphere with a personal goal to post five times a week. I upped the ante in January when I accepted the “Post a Day” challenge, helping me reach my first major milestone quicker than expected.

I appreciate you sticking with me over these past few months. I’ve learned a great deal from your comments and emails, so keep them coming.

My goal for the next 100 posts? Keeping you entertained and informed is number one, and wouldn’t hurt to increase readership. With millions of blogs out there, I am amazed that people find me, but I’d love to see those numbers rise. According to the site stats, some readers find me through search engines, which is very cool. That means the “tags” or keywords are working, and that people who don’t know me may actually be reading this blog!

Thanks again for your support. Your visits make it all worthwhile.

Phillies ticket sales on steriods

February 19, 2011 — How cool is this? It’s only February and the Phillies have sold 3.3 million tickets for the upcoming 2011 season. That’s about a million more over last years sales at this point.

And that doesn’t even include the number of ticket sales for other parks, as Phillies fans are known for their undeniable presence at away games. I wish there were statistics available on those numbers.

Today is the first full squad workout, so the season is inching closer, and I’m ready!

You search, they pay

February 18, 2011 – Here’s a simple way to do something good.

Next time you search the Internet, try instead of your usual search engine. Powered by Yahoo, GoodSearch guarantees quality search results, and each time you use it your favorite charity or school will receive a donation at no cost to you.

Search engines typically generate billions of dollars in revenue from advertisers each year. For each GoodSearch user, the site will direct 50% of those revenues to causes you care about the most. And the best part is you can select where the money goes.

It’s easy to get started. Simply enter your favorite charity or school on the homepage and start earning money for them instantly. You can also click on the “Amount Raised” button to check how much they’ll receive, and watch it add up with more searches.

Many charities have felt the sting of the economy in recent years, so this is a convenient way to make sure they get what they need.

You can learn more about GoodSearch by reviewing their Q&A.

Are computers smarter than humans?

February 17, 2011 – If you’re like many Americans you probably spent the last three days watching the much hyped Jeopardy/IBM challenge, where two human champions (Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter) squared off against IBM’s supercomputer, Watson.

In between rounds of questions, IBM executives explained how they programmed Watson to play Jeopardy. He wasn’t just fed millions of possible answers; Watson was actually taught the game’s strategy, such as where to look for Daily Doubles and how much to risk.

The results at the end of the three-day challenge weren’t surprising. Brad and Ken held their own the first day, with Brad tied with Watson, and Ken not too far behind. Watson dominated on days two and three, beating his human challengers by over $50,000. The only time Watson struggled was when a question could be taken out of context, or had a double meaning, something only a human brain can distinguish.

I was cheering on Brad and Ken, while the audience of IBM geeks saw the fruits of their labor payoff when Watson was declared the winner. And I can’t help but find that a little troubling. In the human vs. machine scenario, I’m always going to pull for the human. After all, any sci-fi movie will tell you that if the computer (or machine) wins in the end, mankind is doomed.

We already live in a world where computers have put people out of jobs, a pattern that is bound to continue as computers get more powerful, a.k.a. more intelligent.

Who knows where IBM or any other technology giant will take this knowledge. In the meantime, I’ll try to remember that computers can only become as powerful as the humans who created them want them to be.

Introducing the McWedding

February 16, 2011 – Looking to get married on a budget?

If you live in Hong Kong, why not have your ceremony and reception at the local McDonald’s?

Representatives for McDonald’s say the concept fills a niche in Hong Kong, where it’s restaurants are popular date spots, and where traditional weddings are overpriced in this tough global economy.

“They date here, they grew their love here, so when they have this important day they want to come over here,” said Shirley Chang, the managing director of Hong Kong’s McDonald’s outlets.

The McDonald’s wedding package for 100 guests runs about $1500 USD and includes invitations embossed with the golden arches, decorations, a wedding cake made out of apple pies, and a special appearance by the Hamburglar and Ronald McDonald. It also includes all the hamburgers and fries guests can consume.

The first ceremony took place a few days ago, on Valentine’s Day. Two other wedding parties are confirmed this year, with about 70 other couples considering the venue.

So, it looks like the “Mc” Masters did it once again. Can the McDivorce be far behind?