Friday, November 30, 2012

Libertarian insanity

I friend of mine is an ardent Libertarian.  I am highly sympathetic, but he doesn't believe me.

Mainly, I believe in Liberty whenever possible because no human system can be trusted to regulate human activity completely perfectly.  If you don't really know how to regulate human activity, experience shows me that it's better to leave people alone to do their own thing.  This does free them to do new and interesting and terrible things.

But my friend is basically an anarchist, as near as I can tell, and believes we can depend on selfish motives to supply all human needs.  I, too, am a fan of Ayn Rand, which I've talked about in this space more than once but I'm too lazy to link right now, but I'm not a fanatic about it.

Rand is very convincing.  But I think once you get a little distance from the work it's pretty easy to see the problems with it.  I believe the core of her beliefs are excellence, but trying to implement it in a perfect idealistic fashion is quite, quite mad.

It's strange.  Libertarians don't trust anyone to have any governmental function, but they trust everyone enough to regulate themselves to the point of making a "perfect" society.

I trust people on the whole, but come on, have you never met a real asshole?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Government controlled non-competition

The PBS NewsHour last night had an excellent piece about how industries like telecom and internet service have become essentially government granted monopolies or duopolies, which of course is the very antithesis of what conservatives claim to be in favor of in this country.

You will recognize the nonsense (bullshit) charges from your phone bill they talk about, and the exhorbitant rates you pay for cable and internet service.  The United States--the inventor of the internet--has less broadband penetration and availability than Lithuania, all thanks to government granted monopolies.

I really wonder if things like Fox News--a corporate owned entity--really have the goal of creating gridlock in Washington so that abuses like these do not get addressed.  But that would be paranoid, I know.

It's also highly relevant to the entire culture of corporate sociopathic behavior that influences the entertainment industry to run around suing people and convincing these major ISP's--major because they are the only ones available due to government granted monopolies--to spy on their users for them.  If we had more competition in the ISP marketplace, they would have to convince a LOT more ISP's to do this, and they would all feel that it would put them at a competitive disadvantage to do so.

I wish we could get a liberal President.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Michael Geist gives Canadians some advice about file sharing--if you get caught, you could be faced with fines up to $5000, but more likely only about $100.


I think America should secede from the United States and join Canada.

It should be noted, of course, that this is only for non-commercial claims.  I can't deny that I would find this to be acceptable, here.

Oh Canada!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More mediocre

Yesterday I mused about living in a world where most things are done, frankly, in a fairly mediocre fashion.  I, of course, am above such things.

Nonsense, of course--I screw up all the time, and certain things I do in quite a mediocre fashion as well.  For example, I am a mediocre (at best) plumber.

It's really at work (what I consider my first profession, software development) where I like to strive for higher standards, but I've had to accept that that just is not possible, either, all the time.

But it really is the thing that is responsible for things like Hollywood suing everyone's grandmothers over file sharing, or their seemingly impossible success at convincing Comcast to start harassing their customers for them.

The people in Hollywood who can't think of anything else to do to adapt to the reality of the internet are mediocre, and Comcast and other ISP's who are going along with them are run by mediocre people with no vision.  And also with a big self-defeating streak that causes them to bow to whatever kind of pressure Hollywood is applying.

To be fair, even if you wanted to do it, how would you implement a system of "you have to be really good to do what you do"?  Certifications?  Don't make me laugh.  And indeed, how is anyone who is not skilled in an art to judge whether someone who is is indeed good at it?  How am I to rate a plumber?  Or a carpenter or a dentist?

Not to mention that everybody needs a job.  I'm okay with that.  And I suppose I should be grateful to have less competition out there in the world.

I am annoyed by reality.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Living in a mediocre world

I think I was damaged by working at a tiny little software company (less than ten people) for the first decade of my career.  It had its good points and bad points, and one of the bad ones was that everyone was competent and meant well.

You would think that would be a good thing, and certainly we made a decent living for a lot of years (and they still do today).  The problem was I got used to that.  I thought that was normal.

Fast forward several years and I quit that job to make my game, and then when I ran out of money I have worked in other jobs, where things do not work like that.  It was a culture shock, to say the least.

So now I'm trying to get used to the idea of working and somehow thriving in an environment where everyone is not competent, and many do not even mean well.

But that's reality.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Impulse to Control

An Iranian blogger died "of shock" while being held in an infamous torture prison.  Meanwhile, a school in Texas wants to force all students to wear RFID tags while they're on campus.  Both of these have the identical motivation that the record and movie companies have when they sue and sue and sue the bejessus out of all and sundry--the impulse to control.

It's an ancient impulse, and it has good as well as bad uses.  Always, however, we have to be extremely wary of it.

The impulse to "keep students safe" while on campus is a good one.  And if it were to stop there, the RFID tag idea would probably be a good one.  However, you and I know perfectly well it will not stop there, as schools have been reaching more and more into students' personal lives in recent years.  The problem is that it is the same path that leads to bloggers mysteriously dying while being held by police.

Obviously, the recording industry doesn't even have a worthwhile fig leaf to hide behind like student protection--it's just greed, which is the most common and least worthwhile of all the sources of the impulse to control.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I want to strangle Sony Music Entertainment

So here we are again:

You may recall I got my first phoney DMCA request from these same assholes and they backed off of it just a few short weeks ago.  I even published the license I had for the music here.  But apparently they do not have the capacity to white list something for their fucking bot and they've succeeded in getting my video muted again.

Short version of the story--I licensed some music to use in the video game I've been working on for the last several years.  Sony apparently did so as well, and have decided that they own the copyright for it.

You can imagine my agony of rage and hate, considering the real effort I put in to keep all the licensed content in my game legit, and also considering my mild interest in the subject of copyright and fair use, as well.

But how can I even call up and meaningfully harass Sony Music Entertainment (Japan)?  This conflict is slightly assymetric.

It didn't help that the Google form for disputing it is highly legalistic and scary, and even asks with a popup "are you sure you want to dispute this claim?" before you submit it.

Fuck Google. Fuck Sony.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday

I was driving back from Austin today when I saw an outlet mall on the side of the road.  I thought to myself, "say, I do need some shoes, maybe I'll stop and get some."

And then I saw the parking lot.  Oh yeah.  Black Friday.  And the fields next to the parking lot, also covered with cars.  Yeah, new shoes can wait.

I can't really understand why people go to such lengths on Black Friday.  Do you really think the deals are that much better?   Have you lived in America before?  Half the time, "sale" is equivalent to "we raised the price and then lowered it, check out this deal!".

I suppose it's cultural, and I suppose some people just enjoy the excitement of it.
Bah, humbug.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cox likes their customers

Just a quick post today.   Apparently Cox actually likes having their customers, and will not be participating in the six strikes program--"for internal reasons".


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Watched over by machines of loving grace

A friend asked me to check out this (hour long) video about Ayn Rand, computers, and the financial system:

(sorry for the lack of embed, but gay ass Blogger only supports Youtube videos that way)

It just so happened that I was in the mood for something to sink my teeth into over dinner, so I checked it out.  It was entertaining and interesting, and definitely not something that could be responded to on a Facebook wall--and indeed the subject matter fits into the recently expanded format of this blog.

It's a little bit unclear, in the end, exactly what they are trying to say.  The video ends with a dark implication that the finance industry, having taken over the government in the nineties (a claim made earlier in the film), is still running the show even after the 2008 financial crisis.  To which my response is:

Oh.  My.  God.  You.  Must.  Be.  Shitting.  Me. :-)

I mean, the finance industry has been running Washington way longer than that!

I went and did a little research on Wikipedia and found several Treasury secretaries who had a background in finance, especially starting in the 20th century.  For example, Andrew Mellon (namesake of Carnegie-Mellon university) back in 1921.  Or this fellow Franklin MacVeagh (1909) whom I had never heard of before today.   Or if not finance directly you have many businessmen like Joseph Barr.

In other words, those of us doing software QA for a living don't normally get picked to be Treasury secretary.  And indeed, shouldn't the Treasury Secretary like, really understand all that stuff?

It's really just a part of the bigger pattern of life in that rich folks can easily accumulate power and have influence over the affairs of a country.  It's perfectly natural.  After all, put yourself in their position.  You have several billion dollars in the bank.  You don't like something that is going on politically in your country.  Or you feel like the government is costing you (or about to cost you) a bunch of money.  What do you do?  Do you sit at home, mourning your powerlessness?  Hell fuckin no, you put your money to work and obtain influence to try and effect change that you want to see.

Hell, in ancient Rome, rich folks actually paid for public works like aqueducts and stadiums themselves--in fact few public works were paid for by the government.  Providing a chunk of the city with clean drinking water is a great way to make yourself popular, for example, and enhance your prestige and power in the halls of power.

Of course, we don't see Bill Gates offering to re-pave highway 59--but then again he is trying to cure Malaria in Africa.

Nothing ever changes.

So, you know.  No news there.  I do think it's obvious that the finance industry has got a little too much clout at the moment, but the forces of light are pushing back with Dodd-Frank, for example, which I can assure you is greatly irritating them.  I personally do feel that those of us without power need to have credible advocates in Congress, which is why I voted both Green and Libertarian in the last election, and frankly I lean Democrat when there is no other choice.  But I don't have a problem with business having a seat at the table either, as they are the engine of our society.  I just don't think they need any help from me!

So, in the video they make a big deal that Joseph Stiglitz didn't have access to President Clinton.  I see a common fallacy here that if the President had only known, he could have waved a magic wand and changed things.  Speaking of Clinton, this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by him, paraphrased, which was that when he came into office the one thing that surprised him most was that no one did what he told them to.  It seems that a President has actually surprisingly little power to change the inertia of government bureaucrats protected by civil service laws, hundreds of thousands of people in large organizations used to doing things a certain way, and of course that pesky Congress.

Moving on.  The video also talks about Ayn Rand, her followers, and their effect on the current situation.  This is obviously important, as many people in power these days do claim Rand as their inspiration.  If you are masochistic enough to read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I have talked about her more than once.  In short, I have read and liked Ayn Rand--I even think she has some extremely worthwhile things to say.

For example, one thing you never hear in the media--because it's way too abstract--is Rand's emphasis on philosophy.  Not her philosophy, but philosophy itself.  She says that if you don't have a philosophy, from what do you derive your value system?  And if you don't have values, how do you make any decision whatsoever?  To my mind, that is the most essential point of her philosophy--have a fucking philosophy.  Think about what you do.  Have reasons for the things you do, and for the things you think.  I think this is an excellent point.

She is also very much anti-Christian, or at least anti-Christian values.  In Atlas Shrugged in particular, she demonstrates how some people use other people to get things from them, using emotion, altruistic philosophy, and even family ties as blackmail.  I agree with her about this, too.

But she's most famous, of course, for exalting people of ability.  And I think this is great, too.  But it is also, in my opinion, where she stumbles.

Look, there's one thing you need to understand about Ayn Rand.  It's very simple.

Bitch was crazy.


I mean, you only have to watch an interview of her to feel it coming off the tv screen.  The crazy.  This woman was a miserable person.

In the video they talk about how she "rationally" convinced a married friend of hers, while she was married, that the "rational" thing for them to do was to have an affair.  Her former lover testified that she seriously believed that everything she did was rational.

What you need to understand, in my opinion, is that there is rather a lot of psychological science proving, quite clearly, that humans are not rational most of the time.  I could come up with literally hundreds of psychology experiments that I studied in school if I had time, but Google will not let you down.  Humans are animals, they have animal instincts that work extremely well at keeping us alive in the jungle.  What they don't do so well is guide us through the modern world.  I personally believe this is the root cause of most of the human-caused evil in the world--lack of rationality.  (I believe this can be improved dramatically with good education, but probably not completely).

Look, life is complicated.  There is a lot of shit to know and think about.  Anyone who thinks he is the master of it is self deluded.

At the beginning of the video you are shown a number of silicon valley entrepreneurs announcing that they are Randian heroes.  Listening to them and watching them, don't you kind of feel like they can't be?

As Obama was misquoted during the campaign--you didn't do that.  You did not auto-create yourself, and auto-educate yourself all on your own with no help from anyone.  You needed the society around you to buy your fucking products, after all.  Not to mention the roads, police and court system protection, and other educated people to work for you, since you literally cannot do it all by yourself.

I'm not even saying these guys aren't brilliant entrepreneurs, and possibly even great credits to themselves, their families, and society.  And I even agree with Rand that, generally speaking, we need to stay out of productive people's way and let them do their thing.  I'm just saying that expecting them to produce everything that humans need is madness.  Have you ever met one of these guys?  "Englightened" is not a word I would use to describe them.  "Acquisitive" is.

For example, many "self-made" men also have a way of treating their employees like crap.

In Atlas Shrugged, the hero guys treat certain employees with a lot of respect, because they have that mutual respect thing going on.  But if you look at an example like Papa John's pizza, it is obvious that there any respect has to be a one way upstream sort of deal.

All I'm claiming is that many people who are very very good at making money are not actually good and doing and making stuff.  They are generally just kickass salesmen--see Ellison, Larry.

In short, Rand was an idealist, and like all idealists who have ever tried to perpetrate their ideal onto reality, it backfires in unexpected ways because they don't understand their own idea's limitations and flaws.

So in the real world you have the case of the Randian financiers in Washington using the government to bail out Thailand and Korea, supposedly, just so they could get their own money out of those countries.

Ayn Rand would have those people executed.  You may recall that Dagny Taggart's dad once almost killed a government man who offered him government money.  No.  She wouldn't like that.

Hypocrisy is certainly the name of the game, here.  These guys claim Rand as their inspiration, but they use her to justify their government looting behavior.

Oh my, they've certainly gotten their information about her from YouTube, and not actually read her work.

So yeah, that's bad.   But personally, I don't care what kind of philosophy is spewed by someone who is looting, and whether they are being hypocritical or not--they're just criminals, even if they're likely to get away with it.

But you know, in the end, I think my point is that it is just not worth getting your panties in a wad about stuff like this.

Today I took the day off, and it was a beautiful day outside.  I got up and "worked out" (a two mile walk around my neighborhood), cleaned up and had lunch with a friend.  I came home and walked up to Starbucks and got a coffee and a cookie and enjoyed the nice weather, watching the people going about their business out there in the world.  It was very pleasant.

Ultimately,that is that kind of thing that life is all about.  One person can only do so much.  You can write a blog and try to influence people to support the expansion of fair use in copyright to include all non-commercial use, for example.  I certainly encourage that.  You can sit around with your friends and bitch about politics and stuff, as long as it's fun.  But one person's power is very limited--even if he or she is wealthy.

Look at the last election--billions were spent by billionaires, and half of them still lost.

So you do what you can. But I think it's far easier--and more interesting--to simply accept that there's going to be a certain amount of bullshit in human affairs.  People are going to lie, cheat, and steal, bribe and corrupt.  They are also going to be virtuous, honest, and value integrity.  More often than either they are just confused and kinda stupid. It's this mix of reactions that I think makes society interesting and entertaining.

Sure, it's possible the Earth will be swallowed by a black hole because Obama got re-elected and computers aren't as smart as some think they are and Wall Street is running wild and the Chinese are experimenting with antiprotons.  And if so, well, we'll all go down together.

But I doubt it.  Probably the future will lie somewhere in between "global holocaust" and "nirvana".   I'm just going to do my small part where I see the opportunity, and try to enjoy myself the rest of the time.

Anybody got any weed?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why electricity deregulation sucks

So maybe you're living somewhere where they are considering deregulating electricity.  If so, STOP THEM.

I live in Texas, where they perpetrated this scam on us over a decade ago.  Every few months--varying based on term--I have to select a new electricity provider if I don't want to get gouged.

Sure, it looks great if you don't think about it at all.  You even have a nice looking website:

And gee, if you go to "compare offers" (feel free to use my zip code 77057) you will see lots of different options--

and you better read the fine print on every single one of them.

So you know, all the electricity always comes from the same places.  You just pay different people.  And if you follow the links on the offers to any of the companies' websites, you'll see they all have a totally different scheme and way of doing things.

For example, Frontier Energy just tricked me into signing with them, only to get a phone call saying I have to sign up for automatic payments to get the rate they promised.  Again, in the fine print--and there is a lot of fine print.

Fine print is not justice.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Everyone should quit their jobs

One of my main meme's is douchebags.

Douchebags are responsible for all of mankinds man-made problems.  Every war, every financial disaster, every last bit of fine print on every contract, and probably a lot of suicides as well.

The workplace is one such venue for douchebags to show off their douche-cellence.  For example, call centers where people are forbidden to deviate from a script.  Let's run through how that happens.

Customers complain about the automated phone system.  So some douchebag genius decides that what he needs is a call center.  But of course, he wants to spend as little money as humanly possible, so they set the wages for the call center workers so low that he can only find, quite frankly, the dregs of the world to work there.  People who can barely read and write, and have managed not to acquire any important life skills.

So because they don't pay worth a damn, they get these people who can't be trusted for their judgment, so they give them a script and tell them they must not deviate from it.  You know--like an automated phone system, except with real people reading the words.

This does a lot of things.

First, I realize that not all of the people working there are incapable of doing more, so it humiliates the people who, forced by circumstance, find themselves doing a tenure of script reading.

Second, for those who are well suited to this kind of work, it traps them there.  They believe that this is a normal and sane state of affairs, and can't find a reason that it should be changed.  This just ensconces douchebaggery in our society even more.

Not only that, but at minimum wage, it is real hard to pull yourself up out of poverty.  Go and get some training or education.  Hard to do that when you can't even really make ends meet.

Third, it insults any of your customers with half a brain.  It thus alienates the very people you were trying to placate by having real live people answer the phone.

And so the whole world sucks a little more.  But it does create jobs, I suppose!

More than anything, whenever possible, people need to quit working for douchebags.  This really is possible--I've done it before, and I daresay I will need to again.  As long as people agree to go along with douchebaggery, you can be certain it will continue to happen at the alarming rate it is, now.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

So I'm voting Republican, now?

I've been wondering for a while how long it might take the Republican party to potentially get on the right side of the copyright debate.  It appears there have been baby steps in that direction.

I say "baby steps" because it did not take long, as the article notes, for the issuer of the report to back down off it.  Strong copyright has strong representation in Washington.

They have great Washington skills.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Drug testing for unemployment and welfare benefits

Drug testing people in order to receive unemployment and welfare benefits is one of those many, many great ideas until you actually think about it for a minute.

Should we really invade the persons of every single person who gets laid off?  Think about that, please.

Also, I find it amusing that this idea comes from the Republican "individual rights" crowd.  Really?  You want the State actually taking piss tests on the citizenry?  This is the direction you want to go?  What's next, piss for a drivers license?

And I definitely agree with the crowd who can tolerate this, as long as all members of the legislature and governor are also subjected to random screenings.

Another expensive, stupid idea in order to solve a problem that has not been shown to exist.

Friday, November 16, 2012

So after a decade of p2p lawsuits...

It seems we learn nothing.  After a decade of massive p2p lawsuits, the answer to the problem seems to be more lawsuits.

It's hard for someone like me to understand.  I tend to see the world in terms of what is real, to the best of my ability.  What people think is less important to me when I'm trying to understand a thing.  But I see every day that cronyism and conformity to the current management fad is a more effective method of self promotion than actually doing good, effective work.

So these people who keep wanting to sue people on the internet for distributing their precious bits confound me.  You had might as well sue the farmer who collects the water that flows downhill to his farm or the baloonist who rides the hot air over a factory higher into the sky.  Surely they don't really think they can stop this thing?  It's just greed, I say.

It doesn't help that the legal profession in America appears completely devoid of any spine, commitment to principles, or vision.  The Federal government has been trampling on civil rights in a serious way for over a decade now with no repercussion--indeed it is lawyers leading the trampling.  Same thing with file sharing lawsuits--despite ample evidence that man of these suits are of dubious quality and intended mostly to intimidate, they do nothing.

What can we do about it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some people should secede from the internet

I'm actually seriously annoyed that Fox is making a big deal out of the piddling number of people circulating a petition for their state to secede from the U.S.  Rupert Murdoch was born in Australia, and now he wants to encourage our country to break up?

Don't like it, not one bit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Americans will abuse a censorship system, too.

Google has released a new transparency report, which is good.  I would rather they put up more of a fight, but there are cases such as court orders which make that problematic.

One interesting part today is the government requests section.  You'll see there that the most common type of government request to remove content, by far, is "defamation", which is what despots always say when they censor stuff.  What is interesting is if you go down to the United States section, down at the bottom, that Google did, indeed, receive several requests from the U.S. to do this for the same reason, and happily they rejected the requests.  But it just goes to show that Americans are not immune to abusing any censorship system that exists.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marijuana is like piracy

I'm very concerned that the War over Copyright is going to turn into another War on Drugs.  Or rather, that it already has.  Meaning, a decades long struggle to prohibit something that people are definitely going to do, anyway, and infringing on the freedoms of every American in the process.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Maybe we should encourage for-profit piracy?

My whole thesis is that it is legitimate to go after counterfeiters--people who make and sell counterfeit cd's and movies and such for profit--or for that matter, people who sell mp3's for profit or otherwise profit from piracy.  But that may change if 15 year jail terms become the norm.

I'm all for suing those guys for every dime they made, but jail--especially a lengthy term--is stunningly wrong.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How does it feel to be a human resource?

I've talked before about "human resources", and how much I hate the term.

I'm not talking about things like a harassment free workplace, equal opportunity in hiring and promotion, and things like that.  I genuinely approve of those things.  I'm just talking about the entire concept of treating humans as resources.

Look, I'm a programmer--I understand the desire to quantify and systematize all things.  The problem is that we are not yet ready, as a society, to quantify and systematize humans.  That is, they are far, far too complex to do this successfully with, as of yet.  When it does happen, I'm pretty sure it won't look anything like it does now.

I will say that some people seem to do well when treated as a resource.  They seem to be happy working in very large organizations, pigeonholed into a strictly defined role where process is more important than product.  And I can even see how that sort of thing may be necessary, to an extent, in vary large organizations.  Unfortunately, it is this same thing that diffuses responsibility in those large organizations, to the point that the organization can do something terrible, but somehow no individual is responsible.  Which of course is highly immoral.

So I find it jarring to see that kind of thinking in a small organization.  What's more, we seem to be training an entire generation of people to be managers, as opposed to leaders.

This is a subject of great interest to me, that I've been discussing lately with a number of intelligent people.

To my mind, a leader is responsible.  A good leader is the sort of person where really you can sense their competence from a distance.  When they give an order, you want to obey it.  It's not just force of character per se, I think, but a sense also that their mind is clear, they know what they want to do, and they have reasons for engaging in things like discipline beyond the mere assertion of authority.

A manager, on the other hand, manages process.  Every interaction you have with a manager can be seen as an engagement with process, even within their own minds.  You can see it working on their faces.  Hiding with effort their true thoughts and feelings--not out of tact, but terror of making an error.  The last thing they want to do is engage with you as a person, because that breaks the process whereby you are transformed into a resource.

And these same folks wonder why their employees won't lay down their lives for the company.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Paranoid distractions

Everyone seems to have noticed the appalled reactions of Romney supporters on Facebook lately.  They are quite shocked, appalled, and many genuinely fear for the future of the country.

I expect that to be mitigated to some extent by what I expect will be a rapid and complete deal to avoid the Fiscal Cliff before the end of the year.  I wouldn't be surprised if it happened before Thanksgiving--but certainly well before Christmas.

It's certainly quite a remarkable political climate at the moment for anyone who seriously follows such things, as I do.  Note that "seriously following" does not mean getting all (or any frankly) of your information from Fox News or AM talk radio.  I'm talking about the millions of folks like myself who read the newspaper every day, and have done so for many years, and even occasionally watch PBS for serious analyses of things.

But with another four year mandate for the President, Congress understands that the best thing right now is to put on a show of bipartisanship in time for people to feel confident heading into the Christmas shopping season.  Seriously, there are fairly falling all over themselves to do so, with only the de rigeur level of partisan speak.

Why they couldn't do this before was largely, in my opinion, because of Fox News, primarily, stirring up massive discontent among uninformed people who are simply not educated enough to distinguish News from Opinion, or Opinion with Sensible Opinion or even Logical Internally Consistent Opinion.  I'm sorry, but it's true.  The truth has no bias.

I think the logical disconnect between a lot of those poor folks expectations for the election and the actual outcome may have for the first time penetrated that barrier to understanding which is characteristic of believing everything Fox News says.  There is a state of shock, and certainly fatigue.  The country wants very much to move on, and I'm hopeful that a lot of Fox News addicts may wake up and smell the roses.  Folks, it's not as bad as all that.  Or if it is, it's not in the way they're telling you!

You see, I find the whole political circus to be a distraction for the people as well.  This predates Fox News and exists independently of it as well.  For example, I consider global warming to be the single (of many) biggest threats to humanity, but how many times was it mentioned during the campaign?  Because it's not a part of the political parlance of the moment, it was ignored, and thus we continue blithely hurtling along the path to self destruction.

I'm hoping Obama and Congress can do more than avert the Fiscal Cliff of their own devising, and actually start trying to do some good for the people.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Copyright is not a winning political proposition

This article has some interesting polling data about piracy.  Most appalling was the about 25% across the board support for monitoring your internet usage to ensure you aren't pirating movies, tv shows, or video games.

Now, you can get 20% of people to believe just about anything.  But still that's pretty disturbing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Squaring the circl-y type thing

I had an epiphany last night.  I was not the first to have it.  Basically, we need to end Congressional districts looking like this:

The entire, 100% purpose of districts that look like that is to construct a "safe" seat for a particular political party.  You will find that this is one of the many things the Democrats and Republicans agree upon 100%.  It suits the both of them to secure safe seats for each other, and this perpetuates their duopoly in power.

But this isn't even my main issue.  My issue is that because the districts are homogeneous, the way to win them is to appeal to all of these people who have the same beliefs.  This may sound innocuous, even virtuous, until you think about it for a moment and observe the political reality of the United States today.

You see, I am not one of those people who believes we are really as polarized and divided as all that.  Sure, there are always whackos.  But most people are pretty darn moderate when it comes right down to it.

For example, I may have a fantasy about going into the office tomorrow and telling my boss what an incompetent dickhead he is.  But you know I won't do that.  Burning bridges is retarded, and also it doesn't look nice to other people.  Not to mention that hey, are you ever really 100% sure you are right about something like that?  So instead I'll go in and pretend to go along with the flow until I find a better job.

That's how people really are.

But I believe the core of the problem we have in this country now is that the two "sides" feel compelled to pander to their bases precisely because they have been so cut and dried into nice digestable chunks whenever redistricting takes place.

Imagine if every congressional district was square, or something close to that.  You would have a cross section of ALL people in there.  And what would you then have to do to win?

Why, you'd need to be an intelligent, sensible, reasonable person.  And can you imagine a Congress filled with those?  Not to mention the opportunities for alternate parties.

There is more than one solution to this problem, and I think they all need to be explored.  Then, we'll just have to convince every member of Congress to jeopardize their positions for the good of the country!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2004 all over again

It's eerie how like 2004 this election is.

You have a President who is profoundly unpopular among a large segment of the population--one for bankrupting the country with his war mongering, one for being black (not that I have an opinion!)

The economic and political climate is absolutely ideal for a change, but the opposition party only manages to nominate the least offensive, most "electable" candidate--John Kerry in 2004, Romney now.  In both cases, they are entirely absent of any appeal of their own, except that they aren't the other guy.

Both of them made the argument essentially that, "hey, I can do it better", without offering any specifics.

And they both will lose because they don't really have anything new or attractive offer.

It's a little inspiring to me that, ultimately, positivity generally prevails over negativity, if only just.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let me explain Linux to you

Linux is the most widely used open source operating system out there.  I use it every day, on my compters at home and at work.  I like it a lot.

It has come to my attention that many people do not know what the fuck it is.  So let me explain.

A guy named Linus Torvalds was studying computer science in college and decided he wanted to make his own computer operating system.  So he did, and he called it (in modest fashion) "Linux".  It's kindof a play between "Linux" and "unix", which is the kind of operating system he copied as a model.

Unix was made originally by Bell Labs originally made in 19 freaking 69 for mainframe computers.  There were many "clones" made over the years, of which Linux was one.

Fast forward to 2012, and you have a much more mature operating system which includes nice, easy to use desktop tools familiar to anyone--which in fact I am using right now:

The thing about Linux which kindof confuses people is that there is more than one kind.  In the screenshot above I am using Ubuntu Linux, which I do recommend for beginners.  You can install Ubuntu for free on as many computers as you like--which is true for all decent versions of Linux.  There is no "license check" whatsoever.  Doesn't that freedom sound appealing?

It also comes with tons and tons and tons of free software (legally), which you can install with a click of a mouse.  And none of this stuff is going to spy on you or steal information from your machine.

There are many different versions, however, and some of them can look very different.  The guts of the system are all the same, but the interface--the part you look at--can be very different in both good and bad ways.  It just depends on what you like.  Different versions are called "distributions", which just means version.

Android, the mobile phone OS from Google, is a version of Linux for mobile phones.  Android is going to take over the world.

For many years, I've predicted that we would all be using Linux--somehow--by 2020.  I didn't know the form it would take, but it's starting to look like Android.

You will also find Linux in many standalone devices, such as the Boxee box, Roku media player, WDTV, etc.

So you might as well go ahead and try it on your desktop--the sooner the better for the coming Linux revolution.  I could go on for (literally) hours about the many ways it is superior to anything else out there, but it would bore you, and you probably aren't ready for it yet.  :-)

NB: There are versions that are specially made for older computers, such as Xubuntu, so you can extend the life of your crufty old PC.  Sure, you'll wipe out all your data, but that's okay--make backups first.   You'll be amazed at how fast your old machine is once you get that nasty Windows install off it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day laborers impress me

So when I was on the way back from the Comcast store the other day, I was stopped at a light at Chimney Rock under the Westpark tollway in Houston.

This is a well known place where day laborers gather to look for work.  Honestly, I hadn't put a whole lot of thought into it before.

But while I was sitting at the light, I was watching these guys just standing around, waiting.  I was thinking about how boring it looked.

And then, a U-Haul truck pulled up.

As soon as it came within sight, all of the Mexicans (and doubtless nationals of other Hispanic countries!) sprinted toward it.  They started pulling on the passenger door before it even came to a stop.

That's what the desire to work looks like.  That's probably also what hunger looks like.

So Comcast sucks.  But I realize this is a first world problem.  Indeed, the entire theme of expanding fair use in copyright to encompass all non-commercial use is very much a first world problem.

I do think it matters, as we will only have more scenes that like that that I witnessed if real freedom on the internet is not preserved.  But I understand it's not exactly salient to every day living to a lot, or rather most, people.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Does Comcast not understand why they suck so hard?

So I went down to the Comcast store today to return an unneeded Cablecard.  It's about the sixth time I've been down there over the past year, and it has never not looked like this:

The few workers there are not exactly hurrying--not exactly Post Office-like, but definitely not feeling too put out by the extremely long line.  Not that I blame them.  It's always like this.  If they tried to hurry it would suck for everyone.  And obviously, it's not in the least important to Comcast to serve their customers well.

Anyway, I did some metrics and calculated that I would be there at least two hours, so I left.  Wasted gas, time, but not my Saturday time.  Not any more.

But what else do you expect from a company that has agreed to rat out it's customers to Hollywood?  Plainly, they don't like us very much, and don't want our money.  Which is why I, and I urge everyone, to give them as little money as possible.

You don't really need that extra level of cable service.  Spend that money on clothes for your kids, or retirement, or something else trivial like that.

One thing is for sure--the moment they rat me out ONE TIME, my internet service is going with someone else.  I call it my "one strike plan", and I'm the customer--I can do that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Which Presidential candidate is better for copyright?

I'm not going to lie to you.  I lean Democrat.  I don't like all Democrats, and I don't dislike all Republicans--although I do think the latter party is being literally driven insane by Fox News and AM talk radio the last twenty years or so.  It's not very productive.

But one major thing I'm not liking about Democrats these days is how they are completely in the pocket of Hollywood.  They get a lot of money from them.  Obama appointed a "copyright czar" who worked for the MPAA.  Not good for our future.

That being said, the previous regime wasn't much better--the Republican reflex in favor of big business is also in favor of Hollywood, and the subversion of our foreign service by Hollywood started well before Obama came into office.

Support for the horrible Pro-IP act, which for some reason forces the Federal government to sue people for violating copyrights and patents, was nearly unanimous, for crying out loud.

So it looks like we're screwed on that front, at least for now.  I am a little more hopeful that the Obamas (you didn't think the Administration was just one guy, did you?) may be more receptive to the human rights angle of a free internet than the other guys.

I'll tell you this much.  If Romney were to magically announce that he was strongly in favor of a massive reform of our "intellectual property" laws, I'd vote for him despite his Bush-like "twiddle thumbs while Rome burns" plan for America--because it's so much more important that we are able to talk about our problems, than even solving some of them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Expanding expanding fair use

Okay, I wanted to wait for the one year anniversary of this blog to do this, but I think I need to do it now.

I am expanding the scope of the blog.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  Truly, my recent first personal encounter with the ravages of the DMCA and our current American internet censorship system has brought things home in a non-abstract way.  It is, indeed, personal now.

There is also the fact that, frankly, I've probably made most of the coherent, logical, rational, and even emotional arguments I can for the expansion of fair use in copyright to include all non commercial use.  I intend to continue to make them, as I can't expect anyone to go back and read all my blog entries necessarily, and adding different angles is always useful, too.  But I need to write about other things.

I am only a man.  I am an intensely creative person, but I have limits.  Leaving the subject of the blog tied solely and exclusively to supporting the expansion of fair use as the only decent solution for the future of humanity's internet thing is keeping me in a creative straightjacket.  You may have noticed a lot of short posts lately.  This is because of that.

But the thing is, the expansion of fair use, and the abuse of the copyright system, is part of a much larger set of problems, anyway.  Problems humanity has always had:

Fools in power.
Blind obedience of the masses.

That kind of stuff.  These are the direct causes of the mess we are in now with copyright, and everything else that is wrong with the world.

For example, in my opinion, there has never been a war that was not caused by one or all of these things.

So, I hope you don't mind.  I'm going to expand the scope.  I may even, I daresay, occasionally post something trivial.

But I am optimistic it will be more interesting for all involved!