Thursday, November 30, 2006


Today we had snow. And ice. Well, most of the ice came down yesterday. But nonetheless, no school today for Alec, so he got to stay home. Tonight we played outside - watch the video to see more!

(click to open the video in a new window)

Oh, the eye? He got something in his eye Tuesday night when we were driving home. Flushed it out at home, still hurt Wednesday, so off to the pediatrician. No luck there - still hurt this morning, so over to Childrens Mercy Hospital to see the pediatric opthamologist. She found a bit of debris under his eyelid and cleared it out. Slight scratch on his eye (corneal abrasion), so he gets to wear an eyepatch till Saturday. Should all be healed up by Saturday! Tough kid...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How were Stalin and Lenin alike?

An essay I wrote for History class - 

After Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin rose to power and corrupted the plans, vision and goals Lenin had worked toward during and after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.  Stalin deified Lenin and himself, creating a ‘religion’ or cult of personality around his rule.  He changed the goal from international communism and social revolution to a single socialist country.  He changed the government from government by the workers to a dictatorial system ruled by him.  He twisted and used the principles and powers created by Lenin to enrich himself and protect his power.

Stalin was originally a ‘hanger on’, flirting around the edges of the Bolshevik party and revolution of 1917.  He came to greater power as Lenin rose to power with Trotsky.  Lenin had grand visions and ideals for implementing world socialism and eventual communism along the lines of Marx and Hegel.  However, the reality of governing the divisive Russian people led Lenin to realize that more autocratic means were required to implement his vision.  He put in place things like the secret police and government structures that were used by Stalin.  Lenin died in 1924, possibly from stroke, possibly from poisoning by Stalin.  After his death, Stalin rose to power against Lenin’s wishes as documented in his ‘Letter to the Congress’ of 1922 (MacKenzie, p140). 

Many views exist concerning the relationship between Lenin and Stalin, and the continuity of their leadership.  The official and contemporary Soviet view was that Stalin was the direct descendant of Lenin’s power.  An interesting point, though, is the official party history refers to the original Bolsheviks as the “dregs of humanity” (MacKenze, p144).  This begs the question how Stalin could be the true inheritor of the movement, if the original creators of the movement were considered enemies.  Dissident historians of the period, including Roy Medvedev, call Stalin’s rule an “unlimited dictatorship”, and a “tyrant […] cold bloodedly destroying millions of people” (ibid., p145).  Medvedev referrers to Stalin’s rule as a cult of personality.   A Russian exile, Alexander Solzhenitsyn considers Lenin, Stalin and the whole concept of the Soviet system a repressive, totalitarian system that was never well suited to the Russian people (ibid., p147).

How were Stalin and Lenin alike?  They were both powerful men, both capable of mastering internal Party intrigue, ruthless cruelty and hostility toward the Western world (MacKenzie, p147).  How were such similar people capable of creating such a diversity of opinion?  American specialist in Russian affairs, George F. Kennan points out some critical differences.  Lenin ruled autocratically to meet the needs of the Bolshevik movement.  He had the confidence to seek the best ends for his party.  Lenin also wrote most of the theories of the new Communist party, allowing him to speak from a position of authority (ibid.) Stalin had a much ruder upbringing, and combined with his minimal role in early Bolshevik actions led to a sense of inferiority.  This inferiority caused Stalin constant concern for the loyalty and respect of his colleagues.  Stalin was also paranoid and power hungry.  This created an atmosphere of fear and divisiveness under Stalin that was not present in Lenin’s rule (ibid., p148).  Under Lenin, the government and foreign policy were of a movement, under Stalin the government and foreign policy were of a single man.

Stalin betrayed the Communist movement, corrupting it and turning it into a totalitarian system.  He used the principles and tools of Lenin for self aggrandizement and to counter his deepset feelings of inferiority.  Lenin knew Stalin would be a poor leader and would corrupt his vision.  Stalin proved him right.  Among the diverse opinions about Lenin and Stalin, the most compelling one is that Stalin used the institutions created by Lenin for his own selfish ends.  He corrupted and twisted the vision Lenin left behind.

MacKenzie, D. & Curran, M. (2002). Russia and the USSR in the Twentieth Century (4th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth/Thompson.

iCal performance tip

When working with iCal, especially on older Macs (I have a G4-866 laptop), uncheck every calendar you have except the one you are working with. Especially uncheck subscribed calendars. There is a huge lag for some kind of string comparison when you have multiple calendars visible. Doubt if it's a problem with modern (G5 or Intel) Mac's but on this old beast it's a real PITA.

Post a comment if you know more about it, or have other suggestions!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

MacRumors Apple Ad Contest Results

The website, MacRumors, sponsored an ad contest for Apple fans - here's the winners at: MacRumors Apple Ad Contest Results

Well, I just spent 90 minutes browsing all the entries - all I can say is WOW! You can see all the entries, plus links to the music used at this MacRumors Forum thread. Remember - none of these are paid ad agency films, and the winner is a college student studying music history!

The winner, Generations, used this video technique to animate the foreground and background images separately.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sloppy - the slow proxy for dial-up modem speed simulation (slow down)

Sloppy - the slow proxy for dial-up modem speed simulation (slow down): "Sloppy deliberately slows the transfer of data between client and server.

Example usage: you probably build web sites on your local network, which is fast. Using Sloppy is one way to get the 'dial-up experience' of your work without the hassle of having to install a modem."

Four Seconds Max

This is an excellent article discussing the speed of web pages: (dead link 2015)

A couple of bullet points from the article:

  • The consequences for an online retailer whose site underperforms include diminished goodwill, negative brand perception, and, most important, significant loss in overall sales.
  • Online shopper loyalty is contingent upon quick page loading, especially for high-spending shoppers and those with greater tenure.
  • JupiterResearch recommends that retailers make every effort to keep page rendering to no longer than four seconds.

Also, Jakob Nielsen has two good articles on the same topic:

Those reference research dating from the 1960s' - 10 seconds is about the max you want to go.

Interesting stuff.

You can also check out the original papers by Goodman and Spence from the 70s

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cottonwood Falls and Chase County

Friend of mine at work sent me these great links after we were talking about the Flint Hills.

Cottonwood Falls River and Bridge

and a huge page about Chase County and the Chase County Courthouse

Mighty cool stuff right here in our back yard. . .

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Love Commerce Bank Online Bill Pay

Just got off the phone with this nard from one of my less savory creditors. They claimed I owed them another payment, and that I hadn't made a payment since September!

I pull up the Online bill pay page, search for the payee and see a payment was sent out last month. I had the check number, confirmation number, and the cancelled check, front and back. I read off the info from the back of the check to this nard and he conceeded that I may have made the payment (may?!?) and that'd he'd mark it as paid.

All that took about 3 minutes.

I imagine if I had to try to do that with paper checks and a check register it would have taken more effort than just giving the guy another payment.

I love commerce bank online bill pay!