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 182012
 

Annabel,

First, for the most part I agree with much of the Coffee Party ideals that you’ve laid out over time.  As a Libertarian, my primary motivation is to lessen government control and invigorate personal freedoms.

This morning I read your post regarding your responses to pro-gun folk.  Unfortunately, I think you’ve responded to some of the more hyperbolic claims (though not all without any truth), which makes the pro-gun crowd seem a bit absurd.  I’d like to take this opportunity to rebut some of your comments, and hopefully add to the discussion.

Dear friends who can’t tolerate anyone bringing up gun control

In this section, I feel some lines are blurred.  The primary point that you are making, however, appears to be that regulation and a ban are different.  I agree with this.  However, regulation can effectively ban things.  For an example, let’s look at the recent BuckyBall fiasco (or click here for additional info).  In this case a federal body with no legislative authority, the CPSC, effectively shut down a company because a few children were injured by their products, despite warnings on the packaging.  These magnetic desk toys harm far fewer people than many other every day items – certainly fewer than guns.  This kind of reaction from the government is exactly what the seriously pro-gun crowd fears.  Sometimes hyperbole is more than paranoia.

Dear friends who say that calling for better gun laws is like calling for a ban on cars

Fair points.  Except that I would say that only a very specific selection of guns are created to kill people.  Most are made to protect people or to hunt animals.  The only guns explicitly made to kill people are assault rifles and sidearms designed for the military and various militia around the world.  This is a relatively small fraction of guns that are manufactured.  Just because something can kill people does not mean that it’s made to kill people.  Tasers are “non-lethal,” but still kill people with an oddly high probability.

Dear friends who say that Newtown is about mental illness and we should only discuss improving healthcare for the mentally ill

Perhaps “only” is too strong of a qualifier, but this is not an unreasonable approach.  A foundation of our country is supposed to be personal responsibility, for better or worse.  That includes placing responsibility on those responsible for actions.  Smith & Wesson doesn’t kill people as a company.  The guy who runs the local gun shop?  Probably doesn’t kill people.  The legislators who don’t create more stringent gun laws?  The judges who uphold our Constitutional rights?  Also probably not out slaying random citizens.  Just like in rape cases, we need to blame the person who is directly and immediately responsible for committing the crime.  Just like it’s not a woman’s fault for being raped because she dresses “provocatively,” it’s not anyone else’s fault but the shooter’s that people died by his or her hand (hand, and not gun, being imperative language here).

Dear friends who say the problem is the person not the gun

Well yes.  But this is also a bit of a misnomer.  Just like a terrorist will find a way, so will a lunatic.  I often joke in an agitated way about the TSA and it’s regulations.  I find it amusing that somehow matches are okay and a lighter is not, despite the fact that they both create fire.  Or that I can bring my keys on a plane, but not nail clippers.  I’m fairly confident that if I intended to physically harm someone on a plane, my keys would make a better weapon than nail clippers.  It’s about placing blame in ways that allow people to feel safe.  The problem isn’t the gun or the person with the gun, it’s the person who wants to kill people.  I’m additionally confident that if he couldn’t get a gun, he could’ve built a pipe bomb, or stolen a car and run kids down after school, or any number of other ways to harm others.  How can an inanimate object be to blame?  It’s simply a logical fallacy to believe that it possible.

Dear friends who say we need guns to protect ourselves from the government

I think, perhaps, you’d be surprised to find out that we wouldn’t need tanks and fighter jets and rocket launchers to overthrow our government.  We’d just need people and guns.  I’m a combat veteran with six years in the U.S. Army and a tour in Afghanistan.  I know first hand how resistance can be utilized with lesser equipment.  The Taliban don’t have tanks or Apaches, or armored vehicles, or a nuclear arsenal.  Yet they continue to kick our collective butts on their turf.  The American Revolutionary War was fought by some guys against the King’s Army – and we won (with a little help).  Look to the Arab Spring to see a multitude of examples or how regular plain old people without modern/better equipment or training have overthrown governments.  We just need ourselves and our guns.  Legitimately.

Dear friends who treat the Constitution as some holy scripture from God and who think they have divined the correct, original, literal, interpretation of it

This is a double-edged sword.  If we allow too much leeway in interpretation, then the government holds to power to eventually interpret it however they choose.  With legislation like the USA PATRIOT ACT, apparently many members of Congress feel they can mock the Constitution to begin with – why give them additional ammunition?

Dear friends who think we need more God in the classroom

On this, I agree wholeheartedly!

Dear friends who think we need more guns in the classroom to protect our children

Now you’ve turned the hyperbole train on yourself with: “Why stop at arming teachers? Why not arm children?”

First, children don’t have the frontal lobe development to discern appropriate actions where violence is concerned.  Simple biology and psychology tells us this.  But why NOT arm teachers, even if it’s only some?  Or allow/require schools to hire an armed guard?  A teacher friend of mine disliked my stance on this over Facebook, and asked why the police couldn’t just step up patrolling.  It’s interesting to me that teachers seem to not realize that they get paid exactly in the same fashion as police officers.  If there isn’t enough money for enough teachers, there probably isn’t enough money for more officers.  Maybe we can have one FEWER teacher at each school, and one ADDITIONAL officer to protect them all.  I bet the teachers would love that, too.

Dear friends who fear that your guns will be confiscated

While I agree that the NRA leadership isn’t exactly helpful in making things safer, I understand the fear that they harbor.  I’m not paranoid.  I highly doubt that in my lifetime the government will ever come for my single assault rifle (that I legally own).  However, I do fear that sometime in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime that this could happen.  Protecting the future of our country is as important as protecting the present.

So, there we have it… my piece of the discussion.  Annabel, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my comments.

-Jesse

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?

Sep 202012
 

Shame on Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson for her decision on Gary Johnson’s eligibility to run as the Libertarian candidate for President of the United States on Michigan ballots.  Instead of interpreting the sore loser law through a lens of common sense and dignity, she instead chose to make it an issue of partisan tom-foolery.

Incomprehensible!  I know who won’t be getting any votes from me in the future.

If you agree, contact the Secretary of State office.  If someone has a phone number or email, that would be ideal.  For now, use this contact form:

http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-15049-25634–,00.html

Explain to Secretary Johnson that chess-style manuevering should not trump the rightful and moral interpretation of our laws, either in the fine State of Michigan, or in our great country.

 

For more information, please read the following:

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/09/20/50483.htm

http://www.examiner.com/article/gary-johnson-loses-battle-michigan-appealing-decision

Jan 222012
 

So, recently I’ve had a few conversations with people (most notably Samir) about why I enjoy Apple products.  I’ve been given a bit of crap about loving my iPhone and shunning Android.  Apparently this is seen as anti-geek, a step away from the tinkering fool I once was.  My argument has been, for quite some time regarding the iPhone and the Mac (I’ve had both for about two years now), that I simply don’t have the time or energy to deal with the nuances and bullshit of Windows and Android.  I don’t want to hunt for drivers, verify version compatibilities, change out this, that or the other thing, anytime I want to install a new app.  I want it to “just work,” and it does.  This pleases me.

Another thought has been creeping out from my subconscious lately about the simplicity involved here.  Sometimes it’s a matter of visual appeal – simple, clean interfaces – though Windows has been making great strides to this effect as well of late.  Sometimes it’s a matter of overall simplicity.  Last week I downloaded Pages rather than get a new version of MS Word for Mac.  I love Word, I know Word… some might say carnally.  Word and I have been involved for a very, very long time.  I can make Word do just what I want it to, when I want it to, almost every time.  The thought of moving to a new word processing app made me apprehensive, to say the least.  After only a week with it, thought, I can say that apprehension was for naught.  I still don’t have the working knowledge of Pages that I do of Word, but it’s just so… so…  pretty.  I don’t mean this in the typical geek way; I can’t skin it with Gears of War logos or a Star Wars font.  I can’t make the borders match my guild colors.  I mean it in an artistic way.  It’s clean, sleek, even minimal, and I love it all the more for those reasons.

Maybe I’m losing geek cred with every conversation I have like this.  If that’s the case, so be it.  My hardcore days are over.  I don’t use linux (despite the BSD shell in OSX), I don’t crack lines of perl out anymore, and I don’t play MMORPGs into the wee hours of the morning.  Yeah, I said it.  What now?!

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.

Nov 212008
 

First, in case you don’t actually know me, let me say that I love America. I love my country. I’ve fought for my country. I vote! I love America. But lately, I’m not terribly fond of Americans. Political correctness, racial oversensitivity and the feeling that America must repent for its ways are no longer amusing anecdotes, but troublesome realities. Take for instance this article.

The basics of the story are as follows. A student at a high school in Florida was suspended for ten days because he showed off a knotted rope. Okay, I’ll bite. Apparently it was tied in a slip knot and potentially could have been a noose. While school officials stated that there are no racial tensions, they also mention another incident where police were called in because students were cheering the Obama win. Paranoid much? I’m pretty sure I learned how to tie a hangman’s noose when I was maybe ten years old. Boy Scouts didn’t fool around. You needed to know a LOT of knots. But I’d like to call into question the following items… Was it a rope, or a “rope”? Was it a hangman’s noose knot or a simple slip knot? Was he forming a noose, or a simple loop with a slip knot? Was he talking about hanging someone, harming someone or otherwise being racially or physically harmful to anyone? So far the answer appears to be “no” to the latter, so WTF is the big deal?

The quotes from the NAACP rep that was interviewed for the news item are priceless. I shall put them here:

For many, the display of a noose is symbolic of earlier times in the nation’s history when blacks were hanged and mutilated by mobs or hooded Ku Klux Klansmen across the South. Charles Favors, president of the South Brevard NAACP, said the school district must remain firm in meting out punishment in the case.

“It’s very serious. We lost so many lives behind the noose,” Favors said.

“It could start something that could get out of control. The real factor now should be that any disregard of race must be met with consequences,” Favors said.

God help us if a black man sees a white man docking his boat. The poor boater might go to jail. Seriously people… get over yourselves! I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally. And from that perspective I can firmly and positively say that if you are black, and everything is still colored by slavery to you, you are wrong. Likewise, if you are white, and everything seems worse since slavery ended, you are also wrong. I’m tired of the double standards. I’m tired of the racial oversensitivty. I’m tired of being made to feel bad because I’m a white American male. So, to those of you who think I’m an asshat right now, picture both of my middle fingers firmly raised and facing you.

Thank you!

Nov 212008
 

…guess what? You can kiss my lily white American ass!

You want us to stop bombing your country? You feel that we are violating your sovereignty? Act like a damned sovereign nation, take control of the entirety of the land within your borders and the people that are there.

Sure, we might have some crazy Mormons in the desert building camps and practicing polygamy. Sure, we might have crazy hillbillies in the Apalachians sharing the family tooth. You know what we DON’T have? We don’t have those same people getting into plans and mangling shit in your country. The only reason the US military is there doing that is because you don’t have the balls, the smarts or the ability to do it your own damned selves.

So, grow a pair and be a real country, or prepare for things to get far worse than a few bombs being dropped on a few mud huts. Besides, India is just itching to have a reason to beat the hell out of your country. If we gave them the green light, you’d have Hindus and Elephants so far up your asses, you’d start praying for Vishnu to come to your aid.

Aug 242007
 

This is a topic that has had me a bit upset for awhile due to several different major issues that have cropped up. However, recently reading about the “two install” scheme from 2K Games regarding Bioshock and the recently changed scheme of “5 by 5”, I have to throw my arms in the air and ask, “WTF?”

For those not in the know, the shipping version of Bioshock for the PC will allow the game to be installed on up to two PCs. This alone isn’t a horrible thing, however these schemes generally work using a hash from various parts of your computer. When you upgrade components, a lot of these schemes break, thinking you are installing on a new PC. As a geek, I upgrade my computer fairly regularly. I’ve been burned by this in the past, personally, and know other who have as well. Perhaps 2K Games does not care if you play Bioshock in two years, but that alone seems rather short-sighted.

The new “5 by 5” scheme allows installation to 5 PCs, and a reinstall up to 5 times on those PCs. That’ll kick my ass immediately! I tend to reinstall my OS and games about every three months. Why? Well, because thee’s nothing quite like a freshly installed OS, clean desktop and better running PC. It’s the gamer-geek equivalent to rolling around in sheets fresh out of the dryer with the Snuggle sheets just having been removed. It’s wonderful. But much less so if at some point you can no longer install games you paid for even on the same damned computer.

My only possible assumption is that someone on the business side felt that money could be made or lost by restricting use of a game. While this is perhaps partially true, it also brings with it the plague of unhappy users, feeling the bane of protection schemes.

Though I have not yet been able to try it first hand, I wonder if the 360 version of the game can only be played on a single 360, or two, or five? Legitimate reselling of console games has to account for as much profit loss to the developers and publishers as does copying and such. Besides, in the end, anyone that is a gamer or is in the gaming business knows that there has yet to be a type of DRM or protection scheme that some vigilant cracker has not overcome. In the long run, it’s the people who KNOW such things exist and where to get them that are more likely to download and play pirated games. The people who don’t understand such things are the ones who ultimately buy their own copy anyhow, and often get burned by such schemes. Does this really seem good for business to anyone who thinks about it for more than a few minutes?

What was the last game that had a single-disc multiplayer offering? I thought that was a fair compromise. You install the game on one PC and install a game clone on a second. You put the CD in the first machine and as long as it hosts the game, the second machine may play along. I don’t recall seeing it anytime recently, but it was a novel approach to copy-controlling.

Of course, there are always copy protection schemes that are outright horrible, such as Starforce. I don’t recall even Sony’s Rootkit/Unlawful Redistribution DRM getting quite as much bad press as Starforce has. Starforce, in at least some iterations, has been known to compromise Windows security to make sure you don’t copy and play pirated games. Except it still doesn’t work (or rather there are still workaround). That sounds like a great customer service move. Of course Ubisoft has dumped them twice. The aforementioned Sony Rootkit on certain BMG label music CDs caused quite a commotion, not ONLY for installing a rootkit on your PC to prevent copying the music, but also because they used licensed code improperly in doing so.

“Hey, I know, we can use this code, unlawfully, to protect people from listening to our music, unlawfully”… I wish I could say it was only at Sony that such thoughts occur.

In the end, I tend to watch for such things. Games and music CDs that use copy protection such as this that can actively affect my systems are not purchased by me, EVER! When I hear of a game that does not have any copy protection or DRM at all, I almost always buy it, even if I’m not terribly interested, to financially support my cause. DRM isn’t really all that great for the content producer, but it is all too often problematic for the end user. How many CD copy protection schemes have made music CDs unplayable in certain CD players? Ugh! I just don’t understand why business types think potentially alienating the consumer is ever a good option.

If you’re reading this and you are one of those business types, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t.