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Sunday Morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in September 2011- Infinity and BeyondEdition

It’s Sunday Morning afternoon. Sundays are for taking care of a sick Girlfriend. Sundays are for celebrating a birthday. Sundays are for being semi-naked on Folsom street– despite the weather. Sundays are for working…

This week the states of Georgia and Texas murdered people in the name of their citizens. The man Georgia executed seems to have been innocent. The United States began allowing gay soliders to serve openly in the military. Saudi Arabia began the first steps towards allowing women to vote. And this week CERN proved that there is value to pure research.

In case the links I’ve provided this week aren’t to your taste, GameSpy has their best-of list. I’ve read most of the articles listed. They’re damned good.

The Republican party is the party of the rich and the white. The Democratic party is for people who are less rich and less white. Since Americans who are less rich and less white also tend to be less engaged with American civil society (being more likely to lack things like drivers licences or State IDs), voter ID laws make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote. Which is why we ought not be surprised that such laws are being passed in the absence of voter fraud. The problem being solved isn’t voter fraud, but Democratic Voting.

This was as far as I got before we went to the hospital. It’s now Monday evening, and I’m heading back there (again) to keep her company.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Third Sunday in September 2011- 13 months of Sundays Edition

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for sleeping- or the slim possibility of swimming, if you can get your ass (and the rest of you) out of bed. Sundays are for waking up late, and recognizing that it will be after morning when the wedding starts. Sundays might possibly be for tracing circuits into your body– but I might be misreading that. Sundays could be for brunch with your parents. Sundays? Sundays are for NFL, baby.

This week… the world’s continued existence continued. Given that there are over 6.7 billion human beings on Earth, over a dozen ongoing wars being waged by humans, and an escalating economic crisis, it seems almost cruel to say that “nothing happened this week”. Yet it seems fair to say that the most significant happenings this week were that things failed to change.

Imagine for a moment that Sony deliberately does something that causes you= and a million other people- $30 worth of problems. Nothing criminal. Just a breach of contract. Your only recourse is to sue. But… who sues for $30? Not only that, but no lawyer is going to be willing to work for 10% of $30. The other alternative is to band together with those million other people and sue for $30 X 1,000,000. There are many lawyers willing to take a case that might get them a $3,000,000 payday. This is the problem that “tort reform” aims to solve. This is why Sony will no longer do business with anyone who doesn’t agree to give up their right to a class action lawsuit. Sony isn’t alone.

Until I saw this map, I didn’t realize that “river” was a regionalism.

One of the ironies of poverty: being poor is expensive. Money costs money to borrow, and the more likely a person is to repay that money, the less money they will be charged for it. America used to have laws against usury, but the supreme court basically repealed them back in 1978. Indeed, merely beleving that it was just to charge interest was enough to cause someone to be sent to hell. In these enlightened times, access to capital is seen as a paramount virtue. Remember kids: it’s only class warfare when the poor fight back.

There are some very rich people who have done nothing with their money. Some of them, like Steve Jobs, are hardware/software computer people. I bet one of them could design, engineer, and replicate enough total immersion driving simulators to let every 16-18 year old in America experience real-world driving conditions in a totally safe environment.

One of the most pernicious lies about racism, is that someone isn’t a racist if they’re not a member of the Klan. Lets be clear: the prosecutor who asked a jury to kill a man for being black is racist. Each of the 12 people on the jury who agreed? Racist. The judge who didn’t declare the argument inadmissible? racist. And if Rick Perry isn’t willing to everything he can to keep this one man from being murdered by the state of Texas… well. He’s either racist, or a murder-happy clown.

Knock knock, mother fucker.

The problem with journalism- any kind of journalism- is that no one knows how to make money off it. It is incredibly difficult to prove to people that the work a journalist is doing is worth paying for. And there is so much good, free, stuff online that even consuming the best of that would be a full time job. If I knew the answer to this problem… you’d see me making a living out of posting to this blog.

USA USA USA

The goal of terrorism is right there in the name. People with grievances and without political power use fear to force the powerful to change behavior. Ali couldn’t match Foreman punch for punch. Instead he forced Foreman to uselessly expend a lot of energy, and waited for a mistake. The terrorists won. We’re terrified. America may have killed Bin Laden, but not before he forced America to commit suicide.

Perhaps there was once a golden era where Labor was so strong that it could force management to pay more than was reasonable, and give other perks besides. Today, workers fight for what our ancestors fought for: a living wage, and working conditions that won’t kill you. The alternative to labor unions is depending on noblesse oblige– the French Revolution taught the world the inevitable result of that.

Retro cred locavore ethical aliqua.

The recurring theme of Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me is that history books are terrified of presenting anything but the “Great Man” theory of history. America had a problem, a Great Man came along and whacked it down. We never get the sense that mass action is required for mass changes. Likewise: all problems are presented as having been solved. The past will never have been as perfect as history books suggest.

Most dudes I know have never been taught how to dress themselves. Here are 25 basic rules. Print them out and read them. Print them out and give them to a dude.

Sadly, this invisibility cloak can’t (yet!) be fitted into an actual cloak.

The framers of the US constitution realized that it is necessary for someone to do the unpleasant job of wielding power. They also realized that power tends to corrupt. so they designed a system by which everyone would closely monitor the people holding power. Modern American police seem to believe that they ought to be above checks having their power monitored. This scares me.

I ought to hit up this bar…

Having a brain that’s wired differently than standard can be a major pain in the ass. I can only imagine what it would be like to watch a child- whom you love- grow up… different.

From Labor’s point of view, the recession started in 2001. It’s been a decade since Labor had any security in income, or personal welfare. Our safety net has seemingly shrunk in proportion to the need for it. Naturally, reporting this story is seen as class warfare.

Intellectual Property trolls do more than keep Joss Whedon from making a Star Wars movie. They can also condemn millions to death.

The worst thing you will read all week. America is busy treating its Muslim population the way Al Quadea wants America to treat its Muslim population.

If you click only one link:

If any of these stories has moved you. If you’ve ever chucked knowingly at the line “It’s only class warfare when the poor fight back”, pick up your fucking phone and call your god damned congressional representatives. Be polite. But read that link and then make a note to call first thing Monday morning. And then make that call. First thing Monday morning.

This week’s theme has been not being able to get the hang of Thursdays. So: in the comments below, tell me about your favorite kitty adventures.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in September 2011- Car Accidents are More Deadly Than Terrorism Edition


Because I hate you.

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for Football. Sundays are for Dim Sum. Sundays might be for weddings. Perhaps your Sunday will be spent at a Renaissance Faire. Sundays might be for contemplation of the misery of success. Or perhaps Sundays just might be for playing games and avoiding the media.

This week, one of my sisters bolted from the west Coast of North America in favor of the West Coast of Africa. This week the Israeli embassy in Egypt was overrun by protesters. Even more depressingly, this week, a ferry boat sank of the coast of Zanzibar, over a hundred are confirmed dead. And the US President gave a speech this week in which he talked about wanting to restimulate the economy.

The biggest objection to another economic stimulus package is paying for it. This is a fair objection in the long run- buying stuff is definitionally not free. Except that right now, investors are literally willing to pay the US government for the right to lend the US government money. We have the opportunity to pay nothing for a bunch of much-needed infrastructure. Building that infrastructure now would put millions of Americans to work. Let’s do this.

The 5 most livable cities on Earth.

There are two main ways an economy can go bad. The most common way is for consumers to not have enough money to buy things, thus destroying demand. Alternately, consumers could have lots of money to buy things, but no one has incentives to make things for them- thus destroying supply. In America, Republicans are insisting that the only economic solutions they’re willing to contemplate are the ones that would work if the average American had a lot of money in their pocket, but no goods to buy. Yeah. Crazy.

A couple days ago I wrote a post where I admitted to engaging in a perfectly legal form of tax evasion. The State of California has won a battle against Amazon, hoping to end that sort of tax scamming. It’s one thing to argue that taxes ought to be lower. Another thing to argue that taxes ought not exist. But having agreed that they are at a certain level, exempting whole categories of shops from collecting them seems immoral at best.

The next time I’m cursed to be in Columbus Ohio, I’m doing this.

The art of making propaganda posters has atrophied. Propaganda films have gotten better. Propaganda social media has sprung into existence. Sadly, no one wants to blanket cities with posters of exhortations anymore.

I live in San Francisco, in a house built in 1927. That makes my home very old- for San Francisco. That’s not to say that we’re a young city. Some of our political divisions hearken all the way back to the 1980s! The whole Kentish Man/Man of Kent division is utterly outside my ability to comprehend.

I prefer the term “gender essentialist” to “sexist”. It neatly deflects the “but women have virtue [X], and that makes them better!” argument. Also: anyone claiming that women aren’t competitive has never gotten to know a woman.

Zombies. Zombies never change. That’s not true at all. But our fascination with them seems to be constant. It probably has to do with our society’s terror over it’s own extinction.

I know that I’m a down the line Democrat. Whichever candidate has the “D” next to their name will be the one to get my vote. The frightening thing is that the fact that the party says something makes me more likely to believe it. I’d like to think that we follow the same axioms to the same place. Available evidence argues otherwise.

It certainly fits my biases to believe that Republicans are deliberately destroying the institutions of the American government. I would love to demonize my political opponents that way. I really do think the they’re acting in the worst impulses of the American political tradition. I cannot, however, bring myself to agree with the former Republican party operative who says the exact things I think. Much as I want to.

On the 10th Anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it’s a good time to reflect on what we’ve lost. Those 3000 lives stolen in an act of mass murder weren’t the worst casualty of the attack. Rather, I’d argue, our biggest loss was the sense that we’d rather die than allow the government to take naked pictures of us. We haven’t merely seen an explosion of public security, but private contractors operating in America for private interests. Armed private security officers police private buildings. Small grade mercenaries prowl America’s streets, malls, and offices. That’s what it looks like to give in to terror.

Did everyone know that carrots weren’t always orange? Seems that Dutch genetic engineers created the orange carrot to honor the man who lead their independence movement.

Terror. It can be used for good or ill. Back in the 1960s, America was terrified of the Soviet Union. As a result, we invested in a program that brought us cell phones, Velcro, and a thousand other technologies.

Undershirts. For guys. There are rules. I’ve never really known the rules, and have been searching for a good way to learn them. And now I know.

The American Civil War was brutal. It may well be the case that it lasted “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash [was] paid by another drawn with the sword”. Certainly it devastated the areas in which it was fought. When I read about the lives of slaves, and how essential the peculiar institution had become to the Southern economy, I cannot help but feel that “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Sundays are for comics.

Instead publishing my comments on this link, I’ve sent it off to a company I’m applying to work at. I hope they think I’m a smart guy. Short version: Games publishers should become more like book publishers and less like movie publishers.

Cats plus puns equals link bait.

If you click just one link:

How should people with disabilities be portrayed in pop culture?

This week’s theme was… you tell me.

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Please yes, tax me more

I just went in on a 4 pack of Dead Island with a friend of mine, using a video games download service. She mentioned that “after tax it’s 40 bucks per”. I was thrown a bit– I’ve never been charged tax on a Steam game.

Then I remembered that both she and VALVe live in Washington State. So I offered to be the buyer for the games, thus “cheating” the State of Washington out of roughly $10. Now the State will have to find some other way of paying the salary of a friend up there who specializes in fixing internet shenanigans.

That last bit is somewhat flip, but only somewhat. If you use the internet, Jake- in his official capacity- has made your life at least a tiny bit better. Residents of the 49 non-Washington states are free riding on his efforts.

You may have philosophical objections to taxes, equating them with slavery. That’s certainly an argument worth having. But if you believe (as I do) that taxes are simply the price citizens pay for the privilege of using common infrastructure, then it’s clear that evading them is even more akin to theft than bittorrent.

So: The answer is becoming more clear. Congress needs to enact a national internet sales tax. The money can be handed over to the state in which the item is shipped, or it can be divvied equally among various states. But free riding is becoming a serious issue. Let’s fix this problem.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in September 2011- Mightily Anemic Labor Edition


Style and dance.

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for laboring, that others might celebrate the decline of organized labor. Sunday is for introducing her to your family. Sunday is for enjoying a last few hours with a sister is who is off to visit Europe indefinitely. Sundays might perhaps be for unpacking, playing video games and having potential visit with your in-law’s apparent.

This week: The Libyan war continued. The US congress got into a pissing match with the US President. Also this week: Japan held elections and found itself a new Prime Minister. Also Also: The US asked Palestinians to delay a vote in the UN over Palestinian statehood- We’ll see how that goes next month.

Perhaps growing up watching Star Trek made me into a one-world guy at heart. One of the things I’ve never really understood is the right-wing fear of the United Nations. Their mission is nothing less than solving common human problems for the betterment of human society. Yes, it’s a flawed organization- we’re a flawed species. Perhaps it’s time the UN got some muscle.

What if you wanted to drink coffee, but absolutely could not stomach the sugar needed to make it palatable? What if you were a mad scientist? Fortunatly, that happened to Funranium, and we can all enjoy the flavor of his grind. For right now, there’s a coupon. Enjoy it!

I’ve written a bit before about Gramsci’s bi-level approach to propaganda. On one level, you need someone speaking to the masses. On the other level, you need the elite talking to themselves. When the elite start contradicting themselves, useful memes die a painful death. And so does America.

The point of science is to form a better picture of reality by creating testable predictions and discovering whether they’re falsifiable. This means that a good scientist will question everything. Sometimes, the pursuit of knowledge can be a bit undignified. Society ought not scoff at the people working diligently to figure out how dirty we can make water before the food supply dies. No matter how silly their testing methods might sound.

Consider this your weekly reminder that “race” is a social construction. At this point in human history, it is a dangerous one. Let’s work hard to get past it.

Back in 2009, Barack Obama took office, and had almost enough votes to get bills past the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate isn’t a game of horseshoes, and so the stimulus bill that Democrats were able to pass wasn’t nearly big enough. It was, however, a smashing success. Now, however, it has run out. And the economy is beginning to falter.

Imagine you’re standing around, and you notice that someone has just had a heart attack. Fortunately, there’s a defibrillator nearby. Obviously you grab it, shout “clear!”, and use the thing on the person. If the first shock doesn’t do the trick, you use it again- perhaps upping the amperage. What you most certainly do not do is claim that pushing a pillow over his face is the key to reviving him. This, of course, is an analogy for the US economy. Republicans are holding the pillow. We voted them into office…

One upon a time, there was a bill that would force lenders to accept lowering of interest rates. This was deemed too friendly to citizens, not not friendly at all to banks. And so it was written that the legislation did not pass. And so citizens are still left holding the entire burden of paying off a debt they’re not wholly responsible for creating. And so demand ceases to exist until that debt is paid off. And so the economy lags. And lags. And lags.

In order to create demand, people need money to spend. In order for people to spend money, they need jobs. The US has plenty of stuff that absolutely needs doing. What we lack is a political class willing to contemplate paying for it. Lack of demand caused by will, rather than ability.

Court was actually ok with this proposal, once they realized the defendant didn’t say wombat.

A customer yesterday asked if our company was unionized. This literally startled a laugh out of me. Our severs make minimum wage, and I’ve seen many instances of employees being told to work off the clock. When I mention to my coworkers that management is making illegal demands on them, they look horrified “I’d rather work off the clock than get fired”. But remember: management and individual workers are co-equal negotiators in the labor market.

This is a great argument in favor of a new, higher, tax bracket and increased marginal tax rates on the [new] top tiers.

One of the things that seems to make VALVe a great company is that they seem to hire people who actively enjoy their work. There is a whole lot of low-level grunt work involved in making a complex computer program, and it doesn’t sound like they hire anyone specifically to do it. I don’t think this is the sort thing that could be implemented at every company, but it does explain why VALVe products are fairly uniformly top notch.

Unlike “race”, gender and orientation do seem to be inherent factors in humans. The Boy Scouts don’t seem to care. Perhaps that’s why they’re increasingly irrelevant.

This is Facebook in a nutshell. They roll out a new privacy policy, which offers the illusion of privacy. In reality, it seems to strip even more privacy from their users. Fantastic.

The America right wing genuinely, honestly, totally believes that when the non-rich vote in their own interests, it’s unamerican. But It’s Only Class Warfare When the Poor Fight Back.

Keeping the non-rich from voting isn’t merely a belief held by the right– it’s a Republican strategy. It took me several months on the ground in Ohio to convince folks that their votes would actually be counted in 2008. And it’s taken the Republican party months more to undo my work. I guess if they believed in democracy, they’d be Democrats.

How bad is the disaster? This is a testament to the strength of Waffle House’s supply chain.

At one point Marvel was so badly mismanaged that they couldn’t turn a huge lead in market share into a better deal on printing and ink. From a consumer point of view, this is wonderful. From a stockholder perspective, this would be infuriating. It should also be cause to doubt the theory that the mega rich are just smarter than the average person.

Starz had a deal with Sony to kill it’s deal with Netflix if streaming got too popular. This deal makes total sense for a company hell-bent on self destruction. Shrink the audience for your product so that you can collect less revenue. Perhaps they think they can offset the costs by firing accountants? Obviously the winners in this deal are the pirates– a few more people seeding stolen Sony movies on Bittorent will make their downloads even faster.

Elephants.

As a straight, cis, white, dude; I might choose to be ashamed of George W. Bush. The former President and current douchebag fits all of those same descriptors. And yet most people look at the former President and choose not to blame his orientation, gender, gender presentation, or ethnicity for his many failings as a human being and President. Generally speaking, straight people, cis people, white people, and male people are allowed to succeed and fail without anyone really noting these descriptors. Which is why we can look at this letter as an artifact of a sexist society. These ladies certainly have their hearts in the right place, and I don’t mean to seem like I’m calling them out. But it’s worth noting that they needn’t have taken the on burden of speaking for 51% of the human species.

It wouldn’t be Sunday sans Comic.

If you read just one link:

Fred Clark reviews a book.

This week’s theme has been labor and it’s discontents. In the comments section, leave a note about when you first realized that something was happening, but you didn’t know what it was.

Nerd Alert!

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