2010-04-08

The One Percent

I watched the documentary “The One Percent” today. This is a really powerful documentary about the richest 1% of society in the United States. As a documentary filmmaker Jamie Johnson has greatly improved from his first effort, the documentary “Born Rich” but it seems apparent that he still has some room for improvement. I don't mean to say that it's no good (it is good) or that Michael Moore could have done better (he couldn't, he makes propaganda films not documentaries) but that some of his interviews seemed unprepared.


Let's take, for instance, his interview of Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman was talking in sound bites and cliches and left himself open for some good questions to really get at the heart of his assertions. Rather than go that route Jamie sounds like a little kid trying to convince a parent they deserve a third helping of dessert.


There are also the scenes when Jamie interviews his father and doesn't attempt to explain to him what he wants out of the interview, or maybe he does and it isn't shown. But when his father tries to get out of the interview by saying that he doesn't have the answers and isn't a genius (or something along those lines) he lets his father off the hook and lets him get frustrated rather than attempt to explain what he is trying to get out of the interview.


I thought that the best example was the part where they interview the Johnson family economist who comes across as a frenzied sycophant but is never pinned down for specificities when he says things like “you haven't done your homework” and “you need to think about this”. Why not ask him what needs to be studied and what homework needs to be done and why?


Those quibbles aside I recommend this documentary.


The Crazy Lady Network

One of the first things that I do in the morning when I get to work is look at what's on my Google Reader. One of the first things that I saw was this article about Kate Gosselin getting another show on TLC. Now her getting a new show isn't so surprising but what is was a combo of a one-two punch of info in the article itself.


  1. [Kate] … has found her new calling: using her role as an 'example mom' to help and learn from others”

  2. It's part of a plan to build on the channel's growth that also includes Sarah Palin's Alaska, a travelogue series about the state and its high-profile former governor”


Wait, I've seen Kate Gosselin andSarah Palin before and it is almost as if TLC has decided to rename their network something like “The Crazy Lady Network”. They could likely keep the same acronym of TLC if they made it something French like “The Lady de Crazy Network”.


Both of these ladies (and apparently I'm using the word loosely here) have a very difficult time dealing with reality. Palin like to whitewash her past and invents her own reality on-the-fly which is a lot like Gosselin does. It looks like TLC is expecting there to be a market for this but, regardless of one's politics, I couldn't imagine who would waste their time watching this.


2010-04-04

Krauthammered

I got most recent issue of Time in the mail yesterday and boy is it a doozy. In addition to the cover article about Steve Jobs and the iPad (what looks like it amounts to the PR equivalent of a hand job for the most popular kid in class) they included a quote from Charles Krauthammer on the Verbatim page for the current issue. ( The whole issue can be found many places all over the Internet.)


The excerpt is:

American liberals have long complained that ours is the only advanced industrial country without universal health care. Well, now we shall have it. And as we approach European levels of entitlements, we will need European levels of taxation.


I have a few issues with this and the first is: it's not accurate. This is a typical trick of right-wing commentators who try to indicate that universal health care comes in one flavor; the flavor provided by the likes of England and Canada. This is just not true. Go ask Germany and Japan.


Second, What is wrong with making sure that everyone has access to health care? As a nation we don't charge for basic education or public safeties like fire protection or the law enforcement. Why do we not provide for people to be healthy? What does that say about us as a nation?


Third, why do these ideas have to live in a reality distortion field where neither side will talk honestly and openly about it? I understand that this is not an issue specific to health care but I feel like this is something important for our country. When people are allowed to die and/or go broke because they can't afford to stay healthy is akin to allowing someone's house to burn down because they can't afford to pay the firefighters or allow a child to not learn to read because they can't afford to pay to go to school.


Morally it is just wrong and now that the law has passed Krautie sounds like one of my kids who didn't get their way and has decided to mouth off while he's pouting.


2010-04-01

Potpourri

I haven't posted in a while, mainly because I haven't felt too inspired to write anything so here are a few random items: things that would be classified as “Potpourri” on Jeopardy.


  1. I finally heard back from The Consumerist “moderator” who referred to my remarks as “nasty and mocking”. I thought I was restrained with what I could have said and often do say to people in real life. This only confirms that they are as smug as they look in the “The Consumerist Team” section (except “Roz” who is the “moderator” and apparently broke the camera when they got to her (him?))

  2. It's a slow day at work today so I'm reading my Time magazine (I don't know that there will ever be a suitable electronic replacement for reading things on paper) and came across a profile of Andrew Breitbart. I just can't imagine being this worked up all the time about anything. I pay attention and I find plenty of things I don't like but I find ti hard to be “outraged” like the bumper stickers say that I should be. Mostly I'm bewildered but more on that later. I know that cooperation doesn't sell and make you rich of famous but the polarizing of American needs to stop.

  3. I'm really happy that the Health Care reform and accompanying “Fix-It” bill passed. I didn't think it would and while there are a lot of points in the bill that are good and some that are perplexing I think that Obama opened himself up to a lot of criticism by not framing the argument as a humanitarian need. I think framing this in terms of what we are allowing to happen to fellow citizens would have headed off “death panel” claims (or at least make them sound absurd the moment they were spoken). And while I'm on it, please just stop the “I didn't get to vote on it” complaints because that's not how our government runs. I think there are a lot of people that need to go back to High School and re-learn the government civics lessons again.


2010-03-20

@Consumerist #Consumerist Can't Stand The Heat, Pulls Me Into The Fire

I've been a fan of The Consumerist for a while now. It's tough to tell how long because when I find a site I like it either gets added to my Google Reader feed or it gets bookmarked and forgotten.

At any rate, a while ago I signed up for an account and proceeded to “audition” for the privilege to comment on their web site. Apparently I was approved and I've been commenting for some time now. Well, I was until about two weeks ago.

About two weeks ago I was evidently banned, as I discovered when I tried to add a comment to a story about a tax withholding calculator provided by Kiplinger rather than the official one provided by the IRS. I really think it makes much more sense to direct people to the official tax withholding calculator rather than directing people to a third party when money and potentially jail time is on the line. But this is beside the point.

Just before the discovery of my banishment from commenting on Consumerist I, along with others, had made some comments on an article of theirs that wasn't “Consumerist” related but more of something you'd find on a consumer electronics related site like Engadget.com. (I don't remember which story it was but it was either this story or one like it posted around the same time.) My comment, as I mentioned, was similar to others like it already posted. In fact, if you go to the story about the PSP phone many of the other comments musing about why Consumerist was posting a story of that nature are still there.

What I find ironic is that a snarky web site that is based on criticizing companies for poor customer service bans me for criticizing them for, as I and others perceived, going off-topic. Ironic right? To get all uppity because someone has the temerity to do to them once what they do to others many times a day.

As a disclaimer, so I'm not accused of being ignorant or completely honest I do know there is a page on their site with posting“code”. Also, while I don't remember what I said exactly I do remember the gist of the message and I also remember exactly what I said in part. I said something like this was the kind of news I expected on Engadget (another snarky site I patronize which apparently doesn't mind a taste of its own medicine from time to time) and that “my how the mighty have fallen”.

Really? You can't take that with all that you dish out you get your fans, the ones who care enough to comment and point out how they think you've strayed from the path a bit and this is the thanks we (I'm assuming they booted others as well) get for caring?

I'm not going for self-pity here. While I am not going to follow their RSS feed anymore unless they reinstate my commenting abilities (and even then I'm going to think about it for a while) I do want to point out the hypocrisy of their actions.

2010-03-19

Falling In My Dreams

I'm a pretty sound sleeper, just ask my wife. Last night though I woke up at about 5 am. I've started keeping a record of my dreams because I find them fascinating (not that anyone else really would).

One thing that I have found though is that in my dreams I don't run or jump particularly well. So when I was running in my dream last night and attempted to jump a gap on a walkway I fell. It was if I knew I was asleep and knew that rather than hitting the ground I could wake up and save myself. Here's to hoping it doesn't happen again tonight; it's the weekend.

The New Michael And Janet Question? II

Stick with me on this one.  After I posted about Larry Wachowski I couldn't get the image(s) out of my head. It is true that Larry is more attractive as "Lana" than he is as Larry (although neither is all that attractive) but then it donned on me that there are two other people that look similar and have never been seen together:
Larry (left) as Larry


Larry as "Lana"
"Lana" as Kate Gosselin?

2010-03-16

Wachowski Freak Out

The Wachowski “Brothers” are freaking me out. Well, not both of them but Larry is. I used to subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine back when they originally published an article about his penchant for cross-dressing and how his then-soon-to-be-ex-wife was calling him crazy-as-bat-shit.

Now I admit that I really loved the original Matrix movie and the duo-sequel they made was alright (better if you didn't expect the same quality of movie) so I went to IMDB today and looked up some info about the newly-released-on-DVD movie “Ninja Assassin” that I know they were somehow involved in. Well, I then see the credit for Lana Wachowski rather than Larry Wachowski. What gives?

So then comes the research. First I did a Google News search that only tells me that Lana is involved in some kind of unscripted war movie poacking such A list celebrities as Jesse Ventura and Arianna Huffington. Next I head over to Wikipedia where I figure I can get a documented and unbiased story and find out that there is apparently a debate as to whether or not he's had a sex change.

I can understand that Joel Silver wants to protect one of his meal tickets and that speculation runs rampant when there is no official source for a story, but really. After reading the story about the writing of the original Matrix screen play in Creative Screenwriting (Vol. 10 No. 3) I was convinced that they've mostly been lucky.


Victor Champ's New Nickname

Don't call me George W. Bush or anything but I've decided to bestow a nickname on Victor Champ. I've decided that, after reading what he has posted so far on his relatively new blog he deserves the nickname of “The Hammer” for hitting the nail on the head in every blog post so far.

Take his latest post about the quasi-rush to support the iPad. I agree that the iPad is a device in search of customers. Maybe we should get Leonard Nimoy on that. I really loved the link to the news story comparing consumer interest before and after the official announcement of the iPad. I felt that same way as most of those responders felt. I was very interested in the iPad before the announcement but was nervious about price, etc. Then the announcement came and its what? A bigger iPod Touch? An ultimate web experience without Flash? (I know it doesn't support Java either but I believe I could survive without that.)

The most awesome setup for Victor's latest article was his (is Victor a him or an it? You look at his photo and decide) blog post about HTML5. I knew a little about HTML5 before this article but this is really telling about how far ahead of the implied (by Stevie J) curve they are. Who wants to wait for however long to get their Farmville fix on a $500 device? I wouldn't. The only thing the iPad convinced me to buy was a Netbook. I love it and, just guess, it does Java and Flash.


2010-03-15

Train Of Thought

I was watching the new episode of “The Pacific” and I remembered the part in “Band Of Brothers” where the one guy was trying to get a German gun as a souvenir. I used to be a souvenir guy but my wife cured me of that. I used to want to get something everywhere I went. I'm not talking about finding something but buying the over-priced ones for sale at the gift shops. Aside from the waste of money it was also a clutter of stuff building up that was rarely ever looked at. Not the least of ll things this is one I'm thankful to my wife for.


2010-03-14

I Picked The Wrong Day To...

I picked the wrong day night to not be able to fall asleep. I usually have this problem when I've taken a nap during th day but last night I just couldn't sleep. I listened to the new episode of “This American Life” and then started in on the movie 2012 before finally falling asleep. Because I hadn't changed the bed side clock I didn't even realize I was an hour behind until now. Ugh...


2010-03-12

Return Of Alan Wilder?

Is Alan Wilder returning to Depeche Mode? I wouldn't be surprised. Back on February 17, 2010 he shows up at the end of a benefit concert DM participated in. Then today I read on the DM site that Alan will be releasing a “new” Recoil album of old but “remastered” material. Alan's departure from DM was acrimonious but it was also in 1995. I really don't think he'd fully rejoin the band, even for just one album but I wouldn't be all that surprised if he came back and worked on a song or two that were included in the next album.

Lawsuits!

My politics may lean to the left but I have a hard time understanding so many of the lawsuits that make it to the news. Today there is a proposed settlement for “Ground Zero” rescue workers who have reported illnesses. Now I know that some of these workers were public service employees who were assigned to work there (like firefighters) but what about those who volunteered? It seems to me that even with a modern day building that there would still be something unhealthy floating in the air after it was demolished by an airplane. What else could have been expected?

Now I don't have enough time to really get into this right now but would a lawsuit be completely necessary if there was national healthcare?


2010-03-06

Linux Schminux

Engadget has posted it's latest “Entelligence” column this week about fragmentation of the Android platform. It might happen but it might not; who cares? Desktop Linux appears to be gelling around Ubuntu as a “ standard” (which I find confusing since I've tried to use it on numerous occasions and I find I prefer Windows 3.11 to Ubuntu) so why wouldn't this happen eventually to Android? If Google were smart they'd require some baseline compatibility for apps and then it wouldn't really matter. What do I really care? I'm trapped on a contract with a BlackBerry where I'm at the whim of RIM's servers if they decide to crash monthly or not (really they do).


2010-03-04

Autism In Time Magazine

I finished reading this week's time magazine. It's this cycle where Time usually comes in the mail on Saturday (sometimes Monday) and then I read it almost as fast as I can for two reasons:


  1. Another one comes in a week (and if I fall behind things might end up like my subscription to National Geographic where I fell so far behind that I finally gave up)

  2. I have other things I want to read in addition to Time magazine


So today I was able to burn through the latest issue and it had a couple of unique articles. First was the article about a German family that was granted political asylum in the US because Germany won't allow them to home school their kids. Wait, what? Asylum so you can home school your kids? That's crazy. 'Nuff said.


The other was the story about how Jenny McCarthy is the most feared mom in America because the MMR vaccine is the only thing in the US causing autism but there are many, many roads to “recovery” (results may vary). I find it hard to believe that there can be one main cure but several “recovery” options. Now it may be possible that it is related but the logic of her arguments doesn't make sense because it uses arguments akin to religious miracles rather than science.


2010-02-28

Windows 7 Ultimate On A Netbook

Remember months ago when Microsoft offered their Windows 7 “House Party”? Well I joined in but no one attended (don't cry, no one was psyched to attend an operating system party). So I have this copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (complete with Steve Ballmer's signature embossed on the cardboard cover) and no computer to run it on. See, I use a Mac at home and after being unimpressed with the performance of Vista as a VM or the Windows 7 beta version as a VM either. I wanted to use it at work but I work for a software company and our software isn't certified for Windows 7 yet and clients are 50/50 when they run our software on Windows 7. That leaves me with a copy of Windows 7 that isn't currently being used. Add to this the fact that I just got a netbook last week and I think you can see where this might be going.


The netbook I got was a Dell Inspiron Mini (I bought it at Best Buy and they sell it as the Inspiron Mini but I believe Dell sells it as the Mini 10 on their web site). It comes with Windows 7 Starter which is fine with me. I didn't purchase the netbook to perform high end tasks but mainly for writing and the occasional web surfing and video watching. But here's the rub: Windows 7 Starter doesn't allow the user to change the wallpaper. Are you serious? I can understand limiting or eliminations themes and colors and the like for product differentiation purposes but wallpaper? Now I've got an itch that I want to scratch but at $80 for an upgrade to Home Premium just to change wallpaper seems a little ridiculous to me.


But wait, I have a copy of Windows 7 ultimate that I am not using right now and it indicates that it “Includes Windows Anytime Upgrade”. I did this on my laptop at work: it came with Windows Vista Business and I had a code for Windows Vista Ultimate and the same kind of anytime upgrade. When I ran that it took nearly as long as installing the OS would originally take and that was on a pretty decent system, this is a netbook.


I decided to take the plunge after a little research on the Internet where the only negative comments about it came from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols who apparently decided to install it on an abacus that could, of course (knowing Stevie), run Linux flawlessly. Then, to put this netbook through its paces he decides to do things like encode videos using Handbrake and attempt to hack into the pentagon (or so I heard) but isn't so pleased with the performance. Pretty much everyone else said there would be no issues upgrading to Windows 7 Ultimate.


I was a little nervous but I decided to go for it. I put in my Anytime Upgrade DVD and tell it to run. It finally said that if I was going to do this I needed to initiate the upgrade from the “Windows Anytime Upgrade” shortcut in the Start Menu. I ran the shortcut, it asked for my key, did something for about 5 minutes, rebooted and about 10 minutes or so later I was ready to log into Windows 7 Ultimate on my netbook.


It really was much ado about nothing since it was so fast and smooth. I'd recommend it to anyone considering doing the same thing.


2010-02-27

I'm Back!

I know that I've been really sporadic about blogging (not that many, if any, have noticed at all) but I just got a netbook mostly for writing. I want to write some essays but I also have some story ideas that I'd like to work on and all of this will likely include some blogging too. I've even thought about publishing some of my writing here on my blog or on my “Anonymous” blog I'm going to keep. (I won't divulge that location because it wouldn't really be anonymous.)


One of the main things that I'd like to start off with is my fatigue with the shenanigans in Washington (D.C. that is). I'll admit that I am an Obama supporter. I have been almost from the moment that I met him and my switch from being more conservative to more liberal started a few years ago when I read the the book “The Corporation” by Joel Bakan.


Now I don't want to get into that story here and now (the two combined because I may later and even here). The things that I am tired of is the power struggle between parties that leaves the people in the middle in a crossfire of polarizing ideas and vitriol that most people don't care about.


I've talked about this idea with a co-worker that is probably my politically mirror opposite but we've agreed that the current two party system is pretty unappealing to most people. When the Republicans and the Democrats get together and hammer out ideas and “planks” in their party platforms there is little overlap so voters are largely left to choose one side over the other. I realize that there are regional differences but I'm trying to not be overly specific in my generalizations.


What I think people need is a third party that isn't formed based on just one principle. There are parties like The Green party, The Libertarian party and so forth that appeal to a very small base of voters. What I think we need is a None Of The Above party that appeals to the middle and doesn't necessarily stand for the same things all the time. For example, the Republicans are usually in favor of more defense spending and the Democrats are usually against. In the 80s while we were fighting the Cold War and now with the War On Terror (such an unfortunately open-ended phrase) the idea of increased defense spending makes sense. In between those two periods the expenditures didn't need to be as high. A party that would accept those realities and embrace them makes sense to me.


I also know that the defense spending argument is easy to make in hindsight it should have been a little more obvious and rational to tell the defense department they were going to get a little less in the mean time. They'd still get money for R&D and to maintain what they need to maintain but any group on a budget is always going to want more money and use what they get. This isn't something that just the government does.


But the difficulty of building a party in the middle is that bold ideas that appeal to one extreme or another and those would largely be missing; the attention getting and appealing ideals present wouldn't be there. Also any intrusion on the power held by either party would be perceived as a political threat and be attacked which wouldn't be so bad as long as the purpose was served: the purpose of ending bickering for the sake of reclaiming power and returning Washington, D.C. back to a place where people compromise for the common good.