scott bradford off on a tangentskip to the menu bar
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Hello and welcome to Off on a Tangent, my entire life in the form of a website. I'm Scott Bradford, and I've been building up my web home piece-by-piece since 1995. Pretty much everything there is to know about me is somewhere on this site, as well as my various artistic expressions (fiction, nonfiction, music, poetry, and more). Please feel free to leave some comments on a feature that catches your eye, or send me a message personally and let me know what you think!

life & news blog
posted August 20, 2004 at 1:53 PM

work update, business cards, and VPNing (life)

Well, the first week of work is coming to and end. I'm getting acclimated and figuring out how everything works; so far so good.

The project I'm working on primarily is the Defense Environmental Network & Information Exchange (DENIX) website, which is a very complex Department of Defense site with tons and tons ... and tons and tons ... and tons of information on it (click around, you can get lost if you don't know what you're doing).

My tasks involve keeping the current version up-to-date (making requested changes, etc.), and I'll also be involved in an ongoing project to streamline, retool, and (eventually) redesign the site entirely -- so it's a good mix of the mundane and the creative.

I got business cards :-).

Anyway, here's proof that I'm a nerd (as if you needed more) ... I have set up Q-Who (a Windows 2000 machine) at my apartment as a dedicated Virtual Private Networking (VPN) server, and I rigged up a domain name to my IP address with ... what that means is that I can easily log on to my apartment's network from anywhere, so long as I have the right username and password.

Now, what THAT means is that from anywhere on the internet I can access the computers in my apartment as if I were right there in the apartment. I can move files to and from particular computers, I can print on my home printer, and I can even log in with VNC and remote-control any of those computers from anywhere. It's a real nerd thing to do.

I find it somewhat useful ... at minimum it was all an exercise in "look what I can do."

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life & news blog
posted August 18, 2004 at 9:05 AM

Puerto Rico has an Olympic team? (mini-rant)

Okay, hopefully I won't offend any of my readers with this (I assume that some people take this kind of thing very seriously), but Puerto Rico is not a country. It is a territory of the United States. Its citizens are U.S. citizens. Its money is U.S. money. It is protected by the U.S. military. You can read about all of this from The World Factbook.

Why then, dare I ask, does Puerto Rico have its own Olympic team?

Now, okay, I know Puerto Rico has its own constitution ... but so does every state in the U.S., and Puerto Rico's constitution had to be approved by the United States Congress. I know Puerto Rico has some level of internal self government, but so does pretty much every state and territory. The fact is that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, and has been since the Spanish-American War (when Spain gave it to us). Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship starting in 1917.

So if Puerto Rico is going to have its own Olympic team, how about Guam? The U.S. Virgin Islands? Well guess what, they have teams too (if you can believe it).

This is silly. If Guam can have its own team, how come Virginia can't? I'd like to see how North Dakota does against Montana in handball, or whether Maine or Florida would win in a rip-roaring game of table tennis.

Yes, because Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not part of any state (or the District of Columbia), they don't get any electors in presidential elections -- only the states and DC were granted that right in the U.S. Constitution -- but they also don't have to pay federal taxes, so I think it evens out.

The states and territories are all parts of the United States. They vote here, use our money, and get all the benefits of citizenship -- and they should all play on Team United States.

(ed. note: this entry was updated 8/19/2004 at 8:30am. After further research, I've learned that U.S. citizens in the territories do not have the right to vote in presidential elections because only states and the District of Columbia get electors. I incorrectly stated in the original entry that citizens in the territories vote in presidential elections. My opinion about non-sovereign territories having Olympic teams has not changed, but I've shifted some of how I justify my opinion.)

Comments (4)

life & news blog
posted August 16, 2004 at 10:30 PM

I'm employed! and general updates (life)

Okay, I know I've been slow with the updates. There's been a lot going on -- most importantly, I'm now employed.

My interview the other week was for a web development position in the management consulting division of Plexus Scientific Corp. I'm happy to say that I got the job and started today.

If you've known me more than 2 years, you probably recognize the name of the company. I worked at Plexus (in the information technology division) in 2001 and 2002, first as a web developer and then as a helpdesk specialist.

Anyway, this is a full-time position and I'll be working at the company's Alexandria office. Most of my job will involve one particular Department of Defense website. (More on that later in the week.) The pay and benefits are in exactly the range that I was looking and hoping for, and, while things will still be tight for a month or two, I definitely won't have to worry about losing the apartment or anything like that anymore.

Today was mostly just a load of paperwork, getting my user accounts set up for the company network and email systems, uninstalling junk on the computer, installing new junk (;-)), and so on. I'll let you know more about the actual nature of the job after I get into actually working it.

Aside from that, I've just been busy with the bass playing and writing and rearranging the apartment. Now that my ex-roommate is long gone, I've moved my office into the den (small bedroom) and moved a lot of stuff around. This made enough space for Melissa to create her own studio and workspace (she has almost as much stuff at my apartment as I do, and the wedding still isn't for 285 days!).

The bass playing seems to be going well. I did something really daring and played all four songs at Sunday's early service without any tab ... I was sight-reading bass parts based on the guitar chords in the hymnals. It went okay, so hopefully I won't have to spend so much time digitizing and melodies and tab in the future.

I'm working on a new short story too. I'm only 1,000 words into it, so I don't quite know where it's going yet, but it has me intrigued. I'll keep you up to date on how it progresses.

Anyway, more on all these things as they develop. Right now I'm a little overwhelmed with learning the ropes of the new job and deciphering all the insurance and 401(k) paperwork :-).

music: "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi.
mood: losing consciousness.

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front page rant
posted August 11, 2004

An Inhabitant of that State

I like Alan Keyes. That doesn't mean I agree with each and every one of his views, but the man is eloquent, consistent, and -- I believe -- genuinely cares about improving this country. I have a lot of respect for him.

Keyes, according to his website, worked for 11 years with the U.S. State Department, served in the Foreign Service, was on the staff of the National Security Council, served under President Reagan as ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, and was an Assistant Secretary of State from 1985 to 1988. He has a PhD in government from Harvard. He ran for the Republican nomination in the 2000 presidential election, and was so darned well-spoken and passionate that he may well have gotten my vote if I felt connected enough with the Republican party to vote in their primary.

You would think, based on everything I've just said, that I would be happy to hear that Keyes is running for the Senate. I am not. In fact, his acceptance of the Illinois Republican Party's efforts to recruit him for one of Illinois's Senate seats lowers my otherwise-high opinion of him.

You will likely be hearing a lot about the Senate race in Illinois as the election nears, in part because it will be a hotly contested position in a country where the 100-member Senate is nearly split between our two dominant political parties. But, perhaps more attention-getting, it marks the first time in American history where a Senate race will be between two African-Americans. Keyes, the Republican, is up against Democratic Senator (that's in the state Senate) Barack Obama.

I don't know half as much about Obama as I know about Keyes, however I do know that he is also well-spoken and intelligent. Looking through his website, he seems to fall pretty well in-line with the basic tenets of the Democratic party. As most readers of my site are aware, I tend to fall more on the Republican side of many issues, so -- all other things being equal -- I would probably vote for Keyes if I lived in Illinois.

But all other things are not equal. Alan Keyes is not from Illinois.

Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states that No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. (I wonder which founding father had the great idea of making that last rule into an confusing, ungrammatical double-negative.) So, Alan Keyes -- who, last I heard, lived in Maryland -- is perfectly within his rights to run in Illinois so long as he transfers his residency before the election.

Senator Hillary Clinton pulled a similar stunt when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000. It was immoral then, and it is immoral now. That Keyes was recruited by the Illinois Republican Party does not justify it and does not make it right. Keyes should have turned down the invitation.

I am going to do two things right now which I would normally never do: I am going to endorse a candidate before both parties have had their national conventions, and I am going to endorse a candidate for an office in a state that is not my own.

I am endorsing Barack Obama for the 2004 Senate race in Illinois.

My endorsement of Obama does not mean that I agree with him on the issues, nor does it mean that I want the Democratic party to gain control of the Senate. I'm endorsing Obama because Illinois should elect somebody from Illinois to represent them in the United States Senate. Each state only gets two Senators, so those two had better have some passing interest in the state they represent.

You are probably wondering why it matters -- or, at least, why it matters so much to me that I would endorse somebody in a race halfway across the country from here. Well, I'm sure that the world will go on just fine if Alan Keyes wins in Illinois; after all, the universe hasn't collapsed because New York elected Sen. Clinton in 2000. What I am worried about is the precedent that these races and others like them set. They turn state-level Senate races into show-elections orchestrated with the input and oversight of national political committees for national purposes. How, dare I ask, do the national ambitions of either the Republican or Democratic parties serve Illinois?

Where could this lead? Well, if it continues to be successful, we could start seeing these show-races all over the country. For example, what's to keep the Republican party from moving Senate candidates with strong campaigning skills from Republican-dominated states to "battleground" states, then filling in the weaker campaigners in states where there's no doubt who will win? I think your imagination can take you from there -- Virginia's senators won't be Virginians, California's won't be Californians, and so on.

How much does an opportunistic, expert-campaigner Democrat from California know about my needs here in Virginia? How much does an opportunistic, expert-campaigner Republican from Virginia know about Californian issues?

The danger of nationally-orchestrated Senate races is that, if they become common, the Senate wouldn't really be representative anymore. My Senators sure wouldn't represent me, and chances are that yours wouldn't represent you either. They'd all be representing the national interests of their party, and if that's how we really want it then we should just amend the Constitution and make all 100 Senators elected at a national level. Let's not play around with a loophole, let's just open the flood-gates.

Well I, for one, think we should close the loophole entirely. I propose that we amend Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution to read: No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and been four Years a Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. Furthermore, I believe we should amend similar language into Article I, Section 2 (which deals with requirements for members of the House of Representatives) so that they must be inhabitants of their particular districts for two years prior to the election.

I propose these amendments because it is the duty and responsibility of a Senator to represent their state, and it is the duty and responsibility of House members to represent their districts. They are not representatives of their political party, nor are they even representatives of the entire United States. Tom Davis is my congressional representative, and if he were not from Northern Virginia I would not trust him in that position. Sen. Warner and Sen. Allen are my Senators, and if they were not Virginians I would not trust them in those positions either. Their job is to represent local- and state-level interests in a national context, and they cannot do that without a local- or state-level connection.

It was my fervent hope in 2000 that the people of New York would not trust Hillary Clinton -- an outsider -- to represent them. They allowed their race to be made into a contest that had more to do with the national interests of the Democratic party than it did with New York, and -- much worse -- they allowed it to work. In November, it is my fervent hope that the people of Illinois will not trust Alan Keyes -- another outsider. As much as I like Keyes, I do not believe that he can represent people he's only known for the three months leading up to an election. I do not think he can or should represent a state in which he has never lived.

The Constitutional amendments that I propose will not become a reality any time soon (and they probably never will), and both major political parties in this country seem to have lost the ability to police themselves and maintain some level of statesmanship. Thus, it rests entirely on the voters to prevent their local- and state-level races from turning into orchestrated showcases for the national ambitions of the Republican or Democratic parties. I hope the people of Illinois are smart enough to see what is happening, and cast their votes accordingly.

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People who live their lives selfishly and at the detriment of others are often the ones who complain loudest about how badly they think they've been mistreated.

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Now, I have long enjoyed the friendship and companionship of Republicans, because I am by instinct a teacher, and I would like to teach them something.

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A gentleman told me recently he doubted if I would vote for the angel Gabriel if he was found at the head of the Democratic Party, to which I responded that the angel Gabriel would never be found in such company.

Theodore Roosevelt

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