Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fox Four!

Also known as "guns, guns, guns" for those who are air combat aficionados.

Yes, this is a post about the school shooting in Newtown, CT. Hopefully it won't be more of the same as I want to address something that's bothered me for a while.

For the most part, I agree with those calling for better gun control. But we do not need new/more laws to achieve this. There are likely more gun laws in this country than any other place in the world. The problem is that they are not uniform across all 50 states. While I understand the need for states to govern themselves as they see fit, there comes a time when an issue demands to be solved at the national level. This is one such issue.

The US needs to implement "universal" regulations/laws pertaining to the manufacturing, sale and ownership of guns. Now, I'm not speaking of any kind of ban on guns. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms." But this right should be tempered with the reasonable expectation that those bearing said arms have some, to borrow a phrase from my government class, checks and balances that would help keep these kinds of things from happening.

[Side Note]
By the way, the problem is not assault rifles. It's hand guns.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why I voted the way I voted

This election was, in my opinion, a great success for all the issues that I support. There was a good cleaning out of fanatical "religious" congressional members, the election of the first openly gay Senator and the legalization of Same Sex Marriage in Maryland & Maine. These are all things I support whole heartily.

So why did I vote for Romney?!? Two reasons; one reasonable and rational, the other less so.

The former is that, while the Democratic party espouses many things I feel are good and right, there are other policies that I believe are less so. Basically, things related to taxes, some social issues, foreign policy and financial institutions are flawed. Mind you, the position of the GOP on these same issues is equally flawed. Suffice to say that neither party is anywhere near truly doing the right things for the country and, by extension, the world. It is simply that the Republican party is farther off target these days. But to keep things from getting out of hand one way or other we need some balance in the government. This balance would have been well set if Romney were elected.

The second reason was personal. You see, the GOP has a reputation (deservedly so) of being arrogant, elitist, bigoted and greedy. There is no denying this. The thing is, the Democratic party is equally arrogant, elitist, bigoted and greedy. The pure, unadulterated hatred of Romney and the GOP by people like Mark Hamill and most of the Entertainment industry plus the incessant lies, misinformation and disgusting comments spewed all over Twitter by others was sickening. If I was on the fence this definitely pushed me over the line.

And that's why I voted the way I voted.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I am voting for ________

I don't know about anyone else but I'm getting so fed up with major political elections in the US. The constant TV and radio propaganda... The lies and half truths... The vile invective being used to vilify the opponent... It is sickening! Still, in three days I will cast my vote for president. Up until now I have been one of the much talked about undecided voters. So who am I going to vote for? I can tell you who I am not voting for.

Here in Virginia, there are five teams on the ballot.
  • Barak Obama & Joe Biden (Democratic)
  • Mitt Romney & Paul Ryan (Republican)
  • Gary Johnson & James P. Gray (Libertarian)
  • Jill Stein & Cheri Honkala (Green)
  • Virgil H. Goode Jr. & James N. Clymer (Constitution)
While I would love to see an all female ticket in the White House, voting for any of the last three options is effectively throwing you vote away. This leaves Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan as the choices. In all honesty, I can't stomach either of these options. However, there's no getting around the fact that, if I want to effectively participate in the governmental process this country has, I have to vote for someone. The question is who?

First, let me say up front, that there are some positions the Republican party espouses that go against things I believe strongly about. Particularly their position on same sex marriage. The fact is that the issue of same sex marriage is exactly like the issue of interracial marriage was some 50 or 60 years ago. There is no reason beyond prejudice, ignorance and hatred for anyone to be against this. Additionally, they prefer to deregulate everything they can, which is a big part of the problems on Wall St. There is also the whole "women's reproductive rights" brouhaha with the abortion debate and contraceptives. This is a bit of a straw man argument, though. There is very little that even a Republican White House with a Republican Congress can do on those fronts, really. It's simply can't happen and frantic hysteria to the contrary is counter productive.

On the other side, we have a political party that critics claim is socialist and trying to undo everything the Founding Fathers built. While this is laughable, it does hold a kernel of truth. The position taken by the Democrats is more regulations and governmental control over the economy, healthcare, social services, finance and industry. Fundamentally, the Democratic party is of the opinion that the citizens of the country are incapable of taking care of themselves and, like children, must be "watched over." You can see this in the way they push to help women, minorities, "the poor" and other demographic groups they feel they can manipulate. That's not to say the GOP doesn't do this. Look at the way they've tried to coop religion.

Basically, the two parties are fighting to gain the upper hand by taking extreme positions on issues that effect voters but have little real impact when it comes down to making things happen. "Obamacare" hasn't changed the healthcare system as much as either party would have you believe. There are much more incredibly serious issues facing the country, and the world, with which both parties are in lockstep. Just look into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for one example. There are also issues like Climate Change, Education, Geopolitics and such which neither party is interested in giving more than lip service to.

"But Joe," you say. "You haven't come close to telling anyone who you're voting for." And I say, right you are. The proceeding was my attempt to break down the election as I see it. And, as I see it, neither choice is good. There are, however, some elements in the above commentary that give an indication as to my leanings. Plus, there are two other facts that I haven't mentioned which made the final difference.
  1. I was born and grew up outside of the US for most of the first half of my life
  2. The huge socioeconomic disparity between the supporters of each party
Point one means I have seen what life is really like in the rest of the world. Not through stories and filtered media but face-to-face. Nearly everyone who has had this experience can tell you that, in the arena of world governments, the US is head and shoulders better than everything else out there. Even when our government gets stupid and stagnant it still motors along far better for its citizens than any other.

Point two is one that surprised me completely. The Occupy Wall Street noisemakers talk incessantly about the one-percent verses the ninety-nine-percent. The assumption is that the GOP backs the 1% while the 99% are who the Democrats support. This couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that the bulk of both parties members are all one-percenters. And the bulk of the money they get is from more one-percenters. The interesting part is, when it comes to "regular" folks, it is the Democratic party which is supported by the elitist, privileged, arrogant, chosen like celebrities and intellectual academicians in their ivory towers.

But what about the support of minorities like the African American and Hispanic communities that the Democrats have? Surly they aren't members of the privileged.

No, they are not. But the actions of both parties; the propaganda, lies and misinformation, that gives the impression that the "right" is against and the "left" is for them. Neither party sees them, or any other voting demographic group, as anything but peons they can manipulate into voting for them. That's all we are.

"But Joe, you STILL haven't told us who you're voting for!"

Right you are. If anyone has actually made it through this wandering treatises, some might say rambling rant, I will tell you that I am voting for. . .

Dun, dun, DAH!

Ritchie Blackmore!

Ok, not really.
The true answer is: I'll tell you after the election. And I'll explain why I voted the way I did.

Bet no one actually read this entire post, too.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Climate Change - The Insanity of Conspiracy

"The spirit of the age is filled with the disdain for thinking."
- Albert Schweitzer, French philosopher & physician (1875 - 1965)

The other day I came across a story about the Flat Earth Society and how they think there is a conspiracy to trick everyone into thinking the world is a sphere. They have plenty of explanations on how this conspiracy of lies warps the truth that the world is, indeed, flat. Seems their membership has been increasing fairly rapidly over the last few years.

Speaking of truth, there are the 911 Conspiracy enthusiasts more commonly known as "Truthers." Recently it was estimated that some 30% of US citizens think the US Government caused 911, either directly or indirectly. That's around 1.2 million people.

Then there's the Pearl Harbor Conspiracy, the JFK Assassination Conspiracy, the Fake Moon Landing Conspiracy... The list goes on and on.

What these all have in common is that, despite incontrovertible, undeniable, irrefutable proof to the contrary, the believers will not be shaken. They are right and there's nothing you can do to change their righteousness. It is we who do not believe that are delusional and blind.

Into this list I would add those who do not believe that the climate of Earth is changing. There are many people who think that climate change isn't happening and all the doomsayers are crazy. This is, of course, ridiculousness itself. There is no possible way anyone with eyes can deny what's happening on our planet. There is, as I previously said, incontrovertible, undeniable, irrefutable proof to the contrary. There is, however, a reason beyond mere conspiracies that these deniers continue to hold their opinions. And that is because there are so many wing-nuts on the pro climate change side who continue to believe their own insane conspiracy; That this phenomenon is being caused and/or driven by the human population.

The idea of man made climate change has been around for over 75 years. But it wasn't brought to the fore until Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" was released. There is, again, incontrovertible, undeniable, irrefutable proof that, while mankind is making a mess of our planet with pollution and the destruction of the environment, massive climate change has been happening on this planet for about 4.54 billion years! To get a perspective on human vs nature's impact on the climate one only has to look at the cattle industry. The greenhouse gasses produced by the cattle in the US is significantly more harmful to the climate than all the carbon produced by all the internal combustion, gas burning engines on the whole planet. Five minutes on any reputable science study will bear this out.

So, the question becomes, why are people so rabid about claiming human actions are driving climate change? One word. MONEY! You see, before Al Gore made his movie, he started and built a company that makes money off of man made climate change. If the real science were ever to take hold he, and a handful of other multimillionaires, would lose a major source of income. They have so much tied up in this fallacy that they had to make it a political issue in order to keep it perpetuated.

I realize that, should this post ever actually be read by anyone, those that believe in climate change caused by humans and those who do not believe in climate change at all will not be convinced to change their view of the issue. But maybe, just maybe, someone with an open mind will come across this and do their own research. It isn't easy to wade through the tsunami of rhetoric and misinformation out there, but it can be done. And even if said person should come to a conclusion different than mine, if they looked at and researched the issue with an objective, rational methodology, it means at least one more person exists who used their intellect to decide what to believe.

One more person not caught by the insanity of conspiracy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day: The Power of We

community

com·mu·ni·ty [kuh-myoo-ni-tee]
noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the ): the business community; the community of scholars.
I have been a part of the Twitter community for almost 3 years.
I have been a part of the Linux community for over 20 years.
I have been a part of the Heavy Metal community for almost 35 years.
I have been a part of the Steeler Nation for, well, my whole life (thanks, Dad, I love you).
And, if you are reading this, you know we are a part of the Internet community.

But how can a bunch of people sitting alone behind their computers or with heads buried in their phone be a community? More significantly, how can this disconnected, disparate group be a community that can have a positive effect on the world? Anyone who has been online for more than three minutes has likely experienced Godwin's Law. How do you get people who can't agree on the definition of the word "the[1]" to come together and make a real, positive change in the world?

Kickstarter and Indiegogo

You have probably heard of them. They are known as crowdsourcing sites and are famous for funding things like Amanda Palmer's new album and the OUYA video game console.

However, they can just as easily be used to fund projects[2] that support causes from the environment to medicine to education. These sites give "ordinary people" the power to impact the world in a tremendous way. Imagine supporting education in Tanzania or helping cancer survivors. The options are limitless.

This is how WE can have the POWER to make a better world. Or at least make the world better for someone.

[1] This is an exaggeration for effect, though I wouldn't be surprised if this did happen somewhere online.
[2] Indiegogo's Community category, for example.


#PowerOfWe #BAD12 #BlogActionDay

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On the Subject of Politics and Idiots

They say one should never discuss politics or religion. "They" are right. It seems these two topics immediately cause the loss of all sanity and rationality, turning otherwise reasonable people into ranting, blithering idiots. Right now there is less than a month until the US presidential elections and the idiocy is reaching a fevered pitch. The stupidity is not limited to one side or the other. Examples abound on the left and the right.

Example the 1st – "Arkansas politician's comments on slavery, Muslims stir controversy"
Example the 2nd – "Mark Hamill: Mitt Romney Is A 'Snake Oil Salesman' Who 'Must Be Defeated'"

The incredible audacity of these utterly asinine comments by the Arkansas politicians and Mr. Hamill is beyond comprehension. At least beyond the comprehension of anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together. The English language lacks the words strong enough to describe how completely moronic these people are.

I could rant about this for days, posting example after example, but the effort needed to think about this idiocy is extremely wearing. I will point out that there is one place where one can get fairly non-partisan, well researched information on the two presidential candidates. PolitiFact has independently fact-checked statements from the first presidential debate as well as the recent vice presidential debate. In addition, they have checked a plethora of other statements from both sides of the aisle. Though I honestly doubt that most people would believe what they would see on there. Just as they wouldn't believe the second coming if it happened right in front of them.

But that's an irrational discussion for another day.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Debating the Debate

"Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated." - G. K. Chesterton, English author & mystery novelist (1874 - 1936)

I watched the presidential debate last night. Well, I watched the first half-hour then left it on in the background while enjoying the frothing, fuming fanatics on Twitter for the rest of it. A large portion of the people I follow are in the IT and/or Science industries. Most of them are, shall we say, "strong" backers of the Democratic party. It was fun watching them go on and on about how bad Mitt Romney was doing and how president Obama was killing it. At least that was their position during the debate. If you've heard or seen anything remotely resembling the news in the last 24 hours you'll know that this is not the consensus that the political world arrived at. Personally, I found it to be a case of two elitists arguing over vague statements and mostly incorrect information (See: Fact-checking the Denver presidential debate).

For a long time I have felt that the differences between the two parties in the US are all superficial. There are no fundamental differences between them when you strip away the rhetoric and proselytized self-aggrandizing. They both want only power and money at the expense of the other party. The country and its citizens are only useful for achieving this goal. Some people think that Romney and the Republicans are evil and will destroy the US. Others think Obama and the Democrats are evil and are already destroying the US. Want to know a secret?

They are both right!

Thankfully, the Founding Fathers setup a governmental system that can weather these trials and tribulations. Many people are fond of claiming that this is the worst political infighting and attacking that the country has ever seen. But the fact it, this is barely a spit in the ocean compared to Boss Tweed/Tammany Hall, Teapot Dome and the time that one party attempted to outlaw and imprison every member of the other party. And there have been plenty more over the last 236 years. Yet, the nation and its people are still going. A friend of mine once described the government and political system of the US as being "Perfectly Broken."

Seems to me he nailed it 100%.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Big Change Coming

Ever since I started running the WebTrek server back in 1995, I have run it on my own system. First it was co-located in MD at a friend of mine's site. Then I ran it from home. But now, I will be moving it to a virtual server with the company 1&1 Internet. This will cost less and give me as good, or better, service. With this move I hope to start working as a consultant again. Some of the things I'm considering are -
  • Custom web application development
  • Custom mobile app development
  • PC game development
  • Mobile game development
  • Write/publish books
  • Anything else I can think of
There's also the potential of reselling web service but that seems a bit out of reach at this time.

The key is going to be my getting organized. That's not something I'm known for, though.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What A Manic Summer

It's been unreal here lately. After Mum had the stroke my son got into some difficulties that have taken up whatever free time I might find. Not only that, our financial situation is, well, crap. It's never been this desperate before.

Now that school has started back up I'll have time to try to find some kind of work. I want to get back into blogging here, too.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Upheaval

Last Monday, my mum had a stroke. It was very unnerving, to say the least. She's back home now and doing very well. We had to completely rearrange the house, though, to accommodate the fact she can't do stairs now. This ended up taking all my desktop/workstation offline. They'll be offline for a while until I can find someplace to set them back up. No idea when that'll be, though.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Off/On The Grid

It's been too long since I've posted anything here. Life keeps getting in the way. I do have some things I want to talk about, though, so there might be some activity on here soon.

If life will settle down a bit, that is.

Monday, February 20, 2012

US Won't Defend Defense of Marriage Act for DoD

US Won't Defend Defense of Marriage Act for DoD February 18, 2012 | Military.com | by Bryant Jordan - "The Justice Department will not defend the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs in a lawsuit filed last year intended to extend rights and benefits to married same-sex couples in the military."
[...]
"In his letter, [Attorney General Eric] Holder said he determined that DOMA provisions “as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violate the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment [of the Constitution].”"

Simply put, DoD will accept same sex marriages. There is nothing ,pre that needs to be said.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why eBooks Cannot Replace Textbooks (Yet)

Recently, Apple announced their plans for iBooks. The general idea is that eBooks will replace Textbooks in schools, and, potentially, everywhere. While it is true that eReaders like the Kindle and Nook make good readers and Apple's iBook will undoubtedly be as good or better, they are really designed for the purpose of reading a book cover to cover. For the purpose of research and learning, they end up being very cumbersome.

Have you ever tried to compare two pages in a book at the same time? For example, information on a subject in chapter one with additional information in chapter eight. With hard copy books, it's simple to flip back and forth, and even hold the intervening pages up so you can see both at the same time. I know that eReaders have all kinds of good search capabilities. But this doesn't allow you to work with multiple pages from vastly different sections of the book simultaneously.

If your need is to read a book in the standard linear fashion, or to simply find a passage in it, then eReaders are usable. However, if you're doing something research intensive, in my case application programming, the current crop of readers are not up to the task.

eBooks have the advantage of being far less expensive and effectively weightless. But the purpose of books is to impart information or entertain. For the latter, electronic formats can suffice. For classroom needs, they still fall short.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tennessee Anti-Bullying Law Change Could Allow Students To Speak Out Against Gays For Religious Reasons: Report

Tennessee Anti-Bullying Law Change Could Allow Students To Speak Out Against Gays For Religious Reasons: Report Posted: 1/4/12 01:35 PM ET Updated: 1/5/12 10:02 AM ET — "Less than one month after a local gay teen took his own life after allegedly being tormented at his high school, a proposed change in a Tennessee law could protect students who engage in anti-gay bullying if they do so for religious reasons."

The complexity of law can be convoluted and frustrating. Free Speech and Freedom of Religion vs. Hate Crimes[1] and public safety. Basic common decency says that you should never do anything to harm another person. And, if you follow the teachings of the western deity[2], love and compassion are the only things you would ever say to anyone. However, we are not a society based on the teachings of Jehovah, Jesus or Mohamed. We are a society based on the Bible/Qur'an, which are often incorrect, misrepresented and blatantly false interpretations of said teachings by men attempting to push their own agendas. We should have little need for anti-bullying laws. But that is, unfortunately, not the case.

The critical issue here, though, is where do you draw the line? Personally, I feel it is akin to the whole, yelling "Fire" in a theater or "Bomb" in an airport, situation. But that's just me.

[1] This really is a misnomer because when is crime not perpetuated by hate
[2] Specifically, the God worshiped in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

First Openly Gay Woman Competes for Miss California

First Openly Gay Woman Competes for Miss California Jenn Kennedy Posted: 1/6/12 08:50 PM ET — "Fewer things are more all-American than the Super Bowl, Fourth of July parades, and Miss America. Most of us grew up watching as these gorgeous women teetered on stage in conservative swimsuits and dazzling evening gowns. I clearly recall the interview portion, which is where you hear the contestants espouse their views about starving children or literacy or some other safe cause. I never thought I'd see the day a lesbian was in the ranks talking about human rights, marriage equality, and gay teen suicide... until Mollie Thomas."

This, for me, seems like a very odd story. Not because there's an openly gay beauty pageant competitor. But because this should not be something headline worthy. Can you imagine a headline touting the first competitor who read Isaac Asimov? Or listened to Black Flag? Or who had pet goldfish as a kid? These are all irrelevant to anything concerning a beauty pageant. Or to anything beyond a reading group, music discussion and a love of pet fish.

Someday, people will stop concerning themselves with superficial and nonessential minutia.

Right after I become a multimillionaire.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Not looking back; Not looking forward

Another year in the books. For the last week or so there's been an overabundance of "Best of...", "Worst of..." and "A look back..." stories that try to hit the highlights of 2011. There have also been all the "What are your New Years resolutions" and "Plans for the coming year" posts inundating Twitter and Facebook, et. al.

This isn't one of those.

You see, I have some difficulty dealing with the past and future tenses. The past is not significant for the future beyond the fact that it happened. It's like watching a movie. It can be entertaining and, occasionally, educational, but it has little baring on today. And the future hasn't happened so it isn't something to be concerned with. Acknowledged and made allowances for, certainly. But it isn't really here until it's here.

Many people talking about living in the present; living in the "right now." But what they are really talking about is being present. Being aware of what they are doing while they are doing it. This isn't the same thing. Being consciously aware of what you're doing, as opposed to running on autopilot, does not preclude an awareness of the past and future. For me, this isn't generally the case. I know there's a past and a future, of course. But they don't enter into my cognitive processes unless I intentionally, actively concentrate on them. When I do that I lose touch with what I'm supposed to be doing at the moment. Sounds like I have brain damage, doesn't it.

Truth be told, I do. More or less.

For almost 20 years I have been on various medications for treating Fibromyalgia that have cognitive impairment as side effects. Then, about five years ago, I discovered I have Asperger's Syndrome. Between those two, and the times when I was a child and had a fever over 102°F, it's a wonder I can function at all.

So here I am. Starting the new year the same way I've started every other year. Floating along the river of time hoping I end up somewhere. And, while I do have plans for the coming months, it remains to be seen whether I can find enough help to act on those plans.