May 012013
 

Today is a half-ranting, half-questioning the order of things type of day.  Ars Technica today has a story about Netflix losing the Warner Bros. portion of it’s catalog as WB plans to move forward with it’s own streaming media service.  This is a very mixed bag to me, and here’s why:

On one hand, I am holding on to all hope for the day that HBO Go becomes unshackled from the chains of cable/satellite subscriptions.  If I could pay HBO $4.99/mo to stream HBO Go without cable, I would ditch cable in a heartbeat.  That would be, to me, as or more valuable then the few bucks I give to Spotify every month.  Conversely, despite no longer being a Netflix subscriber, it irks me when content producers and publishers pull shows from content distributors to make their own service.  This splintering of availability can only be seen as a money-grab and really weakens the whole of the ecosystem.  (For the record, I feel this way about the video game industry as well, and wish awful things upon EA for being forced to use Origin when Steam would be better)

So, while I wish for a day when I can ditch cable entirely (it’s coming), I don’t necessarily want everything truly à la carte; I just want things better.  Hulu Plus and HBO Go (and previously Netflix), as well as game services like GameFly, are where I want things to go.  I just want them to also stay there once they land.

Dec 102012
 

As some of you may have heard, last week saw a prank call by radio personalities in Australia to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge (Catherine “Kate” Middleton) is being seen for severe morning sickness.  Apparently, however, the nurse that took the call and passed it along to the ward where the Duchess was staying committed suicide on Friday, and all indicators point to this being caused by the prank calls.  Now there is a cry out against “shock jocks” (a moniker often reserved for the likes of Howard Stern, who certainly is more shocking than a prank call pretending to be the Queen Mother) and finger-pointing at the two Australians behind the calls.

Frankly, I think this is just insane.  It was a prank phone call.  It’s awful that Ms.  Jacintha Saldanha decided to take her own life over the issue, but is blaming these two radio personalities the answer?  If someone commits suicide because they lose their house, and it’s because they were legitimately not credit worthy, is it the bank’s fault that they took things to that level?  I say no.  What do you think?

Aug 062012
 

I love space.  Not personal space (though I enjoy that, too, from time to time) but outer space, interstellar space, the sparkle-filled, infinite near-void that surrounds the little rock we call home.  I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi that discussed space travel, nonfiction that detailedspace exploration, and day-dreaming about what’s out there that we can’t even begin to comprehend or guess at.

Several years ago, there was talk of real, true space travel (at least in low Earth orbit) for the everyperson, coming soon to a space port near you.  This intensified my interest greatly, and I’ve been keeping track of these programs – my favorite is SpaceX – ever since.  Then there were Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity.  Rovers on Mars, collecting data that we’d never seen before.

So imagine my delight while watching NASA/JPL’s “7 Minutes of Terror” video outlining the landing of Curiosity (aka Mars Science Laboratory).  Now, about twelve hours after the fact, I am writing about the successful deployment of Curiosity on Mars’ surface – even having used all the craziness depicted in the video linked above.  A space crane?  between that and my iPad, I really feel like we’re closing in on Star Trek territory.

 

I am a happy and excited geek!

Jul 242012
 

I wonder how much of that table, if you dig really, really deep, has something in it that someone will find revolting.

From the vast number of news articles about vegetarian and vegan products, to news about “pink slime” and cochineal beetles used as food coloring, consumers are being overwhelmed with news about what goes into products.  This is good from a knowledge perspective, and bad because a lot of it is hype.  Wired has been doing this for years, typically with a one- or two-page bit in the magazine called “What’s Inside?

The Wired blurbs tend to be interesting, but often stories carried as “news” are a bit more concerning.  Where the What’s Inside? articles are generally matter-of-fact, the news articles often carry some bias.  This all came to a head for me today when I read this gem on ABC’s ABCNews Go site today.  It discusses the “7 grossest things in your food,” and the writer even believes some are possibly worse than pink slime.  But are they really?  Americans have spent decades becoming more disassociated from their food even while we consume greater and greater quantities of it.  Of the seven listed items, the only one that truly concerns me is Prozac and other medications found in poultry.

Ok, I get it.  That’s really not good.  Though I would imagine that most of those compounds lose their efficacy upon cooking.  But the other six?

Yes, rennet is an enzyme from a cow’s stomach and is used to make cheese.  Rennet  isn’t a man-made chemical, and has been used in cheese making for a very, very long time.  Actually, according to the post linked in the last sentence, it IS man-made these days, which actually makes it vegan as far as I can tell.  Still, even if natural rennet is not always vegan, is an enzyme from a cow’s stomach somehow not vegetarian?  it’s not meat.  if you can drink milk, you can consume enzymes in my book.

And oh noes!  There’s lanolin in gum?  It’s sheep oil?  Collagen from a fishes bladder in beer?  Beetle resin on my candy?  First, you’ve probably been consuming these things your whole life, and prior to being granted this knowledge thought these were delicious consumables.  Second, a lot of people might freak out about duck feathers in dough-based products, then go and eat a Big Mac.  Seriously people?  Duck feathers are far more natural than a McDonald’s patty, and probably much better for you.  If it’s what works…

Remember, lots of people around the world eat testicles and crazy looking things from the ocean.  If a little extra fiber via wood pulp in your bran cereal is enough to make you lose your mind, you should probably just at lettuce.  Organic lettuce.  From the farmer’s market.  That was grown on rainbows and love.

Jul 232012
 

http://mashable.com/2012/07/22/jack-daniels-trademark-letter/

 

Jack Daniels Properties is my Hero of July for such a wonderful letter.  If you read the Mashable link above, there’s a great story about JDP not only being polite to the nth degree, but explaining why they needed to send the cease-and-desist letter, and even then offering to help cover some costs for redesigning the cover.

Beats the hell out of these IP lawyers doing things by the status quo these days.

 

 

Also some Fark discussion about it all here:  http://www.fark.com/comments/7227998/Jack-Daniels-shows-world-how-to-do-a-cease-desist-letter-right

Jun 262012
 

Dear Tara Carreon,

I’m sure by now you are aware that much of the Internet citizenry finds you and your husband to be utterly out of line.  However, Tara, you especially seem content to name call and belittle people you do not know because they’ve chosen to take to anonymity.  Isn’t free speech and Constitutional Law the very thing that Charles Carreon has spent his career upholding?  How then should it appear to us that he is fighting against those very same tenets that he has built his career and reputation around?

In the beginning, I found Charles Carreon to be a deplorable human being.  As a Libertarian who believes fully in Constitutional Law, I am appalled at the painstakingly autocratic approach that your husband is taking.  Still, I can accept that his views may suddenly become different while he is roasting under the spotlight.  You though…  Mrs. Tara Carreon…  you are a true piece of work.  An utterly despicable, nasty kind of human that says preaches one thing and acts upon another.  You say that it’s horrible, that Inman and those who have taken his side are so immoral as to attack you and your poor husband, while with your tongue firmly in your cheek you return the same in kind.

So, Tara, here I am.  I am not anonymous.  I am Jesse Williams.  A father, a professional and a combat veteran from Royal Oak, MI.  I hide behind nothing.  In plain sight of gods and men, I tell you that you are awful and your behavior incredibly irresponsible.  You and your husband have taken a simple stroke of the pen, and demonized it for what appears to be nothing more than media attention.  They say that no press is bad press, but I hope in all earnest regards that your husband’s career is ended due to this outlandish and unlawful affront to the laws of our fine country.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jesse S. Williams

 

 

For more reading, check out:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/funnyjunk-lawyers-wife-wades-into-fray-calls-critics-nazi-scumbags/

Feb 092012
 

 

Double Fine Productions, spearheaded by Tim Schaefer of Day of the Tentacles and Psychonauts fame, has launched a Kickstarter funding project to produce a modern, reenvisioned point-n-click adventure game called “Double Fine Adventure“.  If you aren’t that old, are new to video games, or somehow just missed out on the trend, check out games like Monkey Island and King’s Quest from back in the day for an idea of how these games work.  There are many aspects of this that have me thrilled, and for sanity’s sake, I will list them in a list-like form – sometimes called a “list”:

  1. The people that comprise this company are sort of like famous indie developers.  I don’t know that I could comfortably say they are indie – they are all too well known and have made too many games (collectively).  But they are also not the business elite, driving after every green dollar and every red cent.  This is to say that I have a strongdesire to see them succeed.
  2. Speaking of having made games, there have been a lot of really good ones to come out of these people, currently and prior to being Double Fine.  Recently, I’ve played Stacking on the 360, and just really enjoy it.
  3. Crowd-sourced funding, in my humble view, denotes that the developers are trying to seek our money AND our input in game design – to the extent that it’s possible.  Also, this project is breaking crowd-sourcing records like so many bricks beneath a sensei’s chop.
  4. They don’t need no steenkin’ publishers!  This could, likely, mean no DRM, no BS red-tape control over development, and more freedom for the developers to do what they need/want to do.

At any rate, for the low, low price of $15, you can basically pre-order the game, and help pay for development.  Also, their goal of $400,000 was squashed in 8 hours and 11 minutes.  As of this writing, they have reached $849,160 and are rapidly closing in on the most funded project ever on Kickstarter.  Oh, and there are still 33 days left for people to back the project.

 

UPDATE (2/9/2012 7:53pmEDT):  The more I think about this, the more interesting it becomes.  Not only has DF hit the million dollar mark (and climbing), but this could be as big a shift in how the gaming industry works as the shift from arcades to homes.  It may not have the overt social impact of home gaming systems, but it may have a similarly-sized impact on the content, quality, and uniqueness of games.  This excites me!

Jan 272009
 

On January 29th, 2009, Erik Salvador Ayala allegedly shot nine people outside of a nightclub called The Zone. It was noted in many news stories that Ayala was an avid video game player.

In February 2008, Stephen Kazmierczak shot students at North Illinois University. He allegedly trained by playing Counter-Strike, a violent “First Person Shooter” that many young people play.

In April 2007, Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on the unsuspecting students at Virginia Tech and again it was noted that he played violent video games, possibly including Counter-Strike.

With these horrible similarities in mind, the greatest minds at the West Winds Think Tank Institute decided it was time to delve more deeply into these and many other violent scenarios plaguing the youth of America. Video games have often been blamed for creating violent young monsters intent on causing death and destruction.

“We wanted to find the correlation to video games between many of these cases. We began looking at similar cases globally and putting the pieces together,” said Dr. James K. Tiberius, head of the institute. “The closer we looked, the more frightened we became of the data we collected.”

Beginning on New Year’s Day 2009 the team, which included experts across many disciplines, began to tear apart each situation and compare every aspect with one another. The data, compiled into a custom-designed computer system started the automated process of determining similarities.

“Almost immediately, the computer began churning out impressive data about each case, each shooter, each situation,” remarked Dr. Horatio L. McCoy, Director of Medicine and Physiosocial Sciences at the institute. “James and I were flabbergasted at the results.”

“We started adding information from other violent events, and the data continued to come back with the same answers,” said Tiberius of the continued weeks of research. “We can undoubtedly say that each individual had a common thread, a common background item, even when we entered information from other events.”

The common item in question? Oxygen. Oxygen, called ‘air’ on the streets, is a highly addictive gas that can be inhaled in a variety of ways. Each shooter was found to have ‘air’ in their lungs during medical testing. ‘Air’ has also been found in the lungs of autopsied suicide bombers from Al-Quida and is expected to have been present in the lungs, blood and tissue of Former President George W. Bush during the time he ordered the United States military to action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It would seem that oxygen is present in each of these situation, and appears to correlate to a high level of violence in individuals under its influence,” said McCoy after continued research.

Other less likely, but potentially serious risk factors include ‘food’ and ‘water’. In the case of the latter, parents should be warned that their children may be able to purchase water, bottled and in a relatively pure form, over the counter across the nation.

“We believe the FDA needs to step in and evaluate the safety of food and water before it is too late,” said Pavel Chekhov, an intern at the institute.

This marks the beginning of another round of critical investigation into the recent outbreak of violence around the globe. With further research, the men and women at West Winds hope to find a cure for the afflicted and possibly prescribe warning signs for parents. Things to watch for and be wary of to prevent oxygen, food or water from becoming a problem for their children.

Dec 042008
 

So, here is the article (or read in full after the break).

The argument the Republicans have is valid. Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution states the following:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.

When President Bush signed an executive order increasing certain Cabinet salaries, Hillary Clinton became ineligible since she was in office when the raise took effect. Other political commentators point to exceptions that have been made in the past where Congress reduced that positions salary to its original amount or where the appointee took the lower salary, sidestepping this issue.

At hand are two issues, in my opinion. First, can Constitutional Law be sidestepped? Second, when does popular opinion override the Constitution?

In the case of the former, I believe that you can view it both ways. If you are going to say that, to the letter of the law the Constitution must be upheld, then you are shooting everyone in the foot based on precedent, including judgments made in the past by the US Supreme Court. This could also be argued to foil amendments in the future if such an argument were to stick. Conversely, by allowing it, you open a can of worms that could lead to abuse. Personally, I’m still on the fence regarding this aspect of the argument.

In the latter issue, I believe wholeheartedly that YES, the American people should be allowed (by popular vote) to override Constitutional issues. If we are to truly be a Democratic society (which we admittedly are not… Democratic Republic is not quite the same) then the people’s voice must be heard on ALL issues pertaining to the nation. Of course this brings up issues of when a vote can take place, how it would take place and how secure the methods of voting were. Regardless, I think taking issues such as this directly to the people at large is the absolute best possible option.

Any thoughts?

Continue reading »

Nov 262008
 

As usual, I will start with a news article. *LINK*

KTVU.com

Suspect, Mother Killed In Home Invasion Robbery

POSTED: 12:36 pm PST November 25, 2008
UPDATED: 7:37 am PST November 26, 2008

SAN MATEO, Calif. — A gunman shot and killed 24-year-old Loan Kim Nguyen as she lifted her young children to safety through a window Tuesday morning during a failed home invasion robbery attempt. The gunman was then killed in an ensuing gun battle with responding SWAT officers, according to authorities.

San Mateo police said they received a call from a man at about 9:40 a.m. about an armed robbery underway at a home on Hobart Avenue near South El Camino Real. The caller told police his wife and children — aged 1 and 3 — were in the house and had barricaded themselves in a bedroom, police Deputy Chief Mike Callagy said. The man wasn’t home at the time, but had received a text message from his wife about the invader, according to officers.

Officers arrived at the scene and set up a perimeter around the house. The male suspect was observed inside the residence with a handgun, according to officers. After a shot was heard fired inside the home, a Special Weapons and Tactics team was summoned. Hostage negotiators were also brought in to attempt contact with the suspect in an effort to get him to surrender, Callagy said.

SWAT officers surrounded the house and were able to get in telephone contact with Nguyen. She reported that the suspect was trying to gain entry into the bedroom where she was barricaded with her children and that she wanted to lower the children out of the bedroom window so officers could get them to safety.

At an early evening press conference to address the incident, San Mateo Police Chief Manheimer said Nguyen was struck as she was lowering her children to officers standing on a van in the driveway of the home when the suspect began firing blindly through the walls of the bedroom.

She said police returned fire as one child was safely taken away. Nguyen handed the second child to an officer before crumpling to floor of the bedroom, Manheimer said.

She was taken to Stanford Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The children were not harmed.

“The victim in this case is nothing short of a hero for saving the lives of her two small children from the crazed gunman,” Manheimer said.

She said it’s not clear yet who fired the bullets that killed Nguyen or the suspected intruder. But she said police were not shooting when Nguyen was hit.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said investigators will perform a ballistics comparison to try to answer that question. It is also unclear how the suspect died. Manheimer said suicide has not been ruled out.

The children were uninjured in the incident and Manheimer commended the officers “who at great risk to their own safety and also under fire” saved them.

She said one officer jumped off the top of the van holding one of the children after the suspect began shooting. She said some officers may have suffered minor injuries but nothing serious.

Police are still investigating whether the suspect knew the victim or her family. A car was towed from across the street that Manheimer say may be related.

In addition to the criminal investigation by the San Mateo Police Department, the department will conduct an internal investigation into the officers’ actions. The District Attorney’s Office will also investigate that aspect.

Manheimer said there were several points at which gunfire was exchanged but that the details are still unclear. Officers from eight agencies responded.

Larry Schieser, a real estate agent who works at the nearby Prudential California Realty, said he was having a normal morning at work around 9 a.m. when he saw a couple of police cars.

A steady stream of patrol cars then followed, and a SWAT team arrived.

He said he then heard numerous gunshots.

“Once the shots were fired it became very quiet in our office, surreal almost,” he said. “We realized something serious was taking place.”

He said he and his coworkers were told to stay inside the office while police investigated.

The home where the shooting happened is across the street from a Montessori preschool called Bright Beginnings Toddler.

Jerry Adan, who answered the phone at the school, said staff members Tuesday afternoon were focused on making sure their preschoolers were OK.

Copyright 2008 by KTVU.com and Bay City News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

First of all, that mother is truly a hero. Frankly, I believe that it’s a parents duty to protect their children, but so few parents are any good at it these days that a woman like that truly does deserve praise, may she rest in peace. Her children are very lucky to have had her and damned well better honor her memory down the road.

Now, on to the issue at hand. Getting a bullet to the skull is not a horrible enough fate for people like this. Cases of this nature lead me to sometimes wish we did not have the no cruel or unusual punishment clause in our justice system. I understand that clauses benefits, but my problem is this: If there is no god, no afterlife, no heaven and hell, this person did not receive what justice was meant for him.

Therefore, in cases like this, where there is 100% proven guilt witnessed by many, this clause should be sidestepped. If the shooter was captured alive he should go to prison and have a SodomBot™ as a roommate. If it was a sexually related violent act, he should get two of them. If it was against a woman or a child, he should get four. These should be his lifelong pals. Sort of a manmade version of Dante’s Inferno.

Additionally, I think more people should believe in vigilantism. The power of mobs is an amazing deterrent.