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Internet Blackout Day

Some of you may have seen the blacked out google logo when visiting their site today, or maybe you visited wordpress and saw their main page shows it entirely censored today, or maybe you’ve tried to use wikipedia today and wondered exactly what is going on today. Well two laws have been going through the house and senate here in the US, they are known as PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). They allow companies without any need for actual evidence of copyright, trademark, or patent abuse to censor websites of their choosing all without ever going in front of a judge. Sites like google, facebook, twitter, wordpress, wikipedia or any others which host user generated content would run the risk of being shut down by other companies for content generated or linked to by their users. Once shutdown these companies would have to go to court and somehow prove they have not infringed on some form of IP to get their sites reactivated. This process could be both very costly and time consuming. So today they are giving us a glimpse of what the world will look like when the likes of the MPAA, RIAA, and a host of media and other companies get their way. Their are clear signs that these groups have contributed millions of dollars per campaign to the senators and congressmen supporting them, so our only way to make our voices heard is to show them we don’t want a world in their image.

 

For those of you who want to go a step further, plugins exist for all major browsers to avoid ever going to the sites of the companies which support this kind of legislation.

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Some things to read

Because the ‘normal’ news media can miss some thing, I tend to point out articles your never likely to see. Usually I turn these into full posts, but today I want to toss out a few bits without taking to much time, so…

Women arrested for refusing TSA search of their children. Not the first time people have stood up to the TSA, but the last batch looked more like nuts then these mothers do.

The Cost of broadband in rural homes. The article itself is rather silly, most rural homes don’t cost an average of $349,234. That is however often how much money the telecomms waste while rolling out some of these. Here in PA we gave billions of dollars to Verizon to roll out broadband across the entire state, today they still don’t cover my neighborhood (though Time Warner eventually did).

$2 billion a year in bogus cell phone fees. Something we should all be more aware of.

It’s been argued for quite awhile that violent video games creates violent people, I’ve opposed this view as someone who has played ‘violent’ video games for ages. A new article though is an interesting read over at Arstechnica.

Each generation seems to find something to complain about that is inherently ‘evil’ and should be forbidden… Role Playing Games (D&D), Rock Music, Science Fiction, and more have all been this ‘great evil’. I think we need to come to a cultural understanding. Each person will come to any form of media with their own personality, biases, and behaviors and through that lens will consume whatever form of media it is. Two different people could read the same book, play the same game, or watch the same movie and have a completely different reaction to it.

Here is another post that has been sitting unfinished for ages…

While I haven’t seen anything lately, Gaming addiction is something my parents swear I’ve had for years. Somehow it is so unlike their addiction to the tv for multiple hours everyday that it bears a special mention by them, and is somehow completely not alike in their minds.

The simple thing is any action we do can give us physical or psychological rewards that turn them into potentially addictive acts. Alcohol and other drugs are obvious examples of typically physically addictive things. However, other activities such as: TV, reading, gaming, sports, gossip, etc can be psychologically rewarding and so psychologically addicting. This is what makes the field of addiction so hard for most people to understand. Most people in the field make judgements such as “X numbers of hours spent per day doing activity Z is addiction”. That said their is no clear biological or psychological consensus on how much of an activity in any time frame is a ‘clear’ sign of addiction.

My parents think I’m addicted to games, because I sometimes play games using my PC… Something I use for a variety of reasons every day. They can’t tell one thing from another when it comes to what I’m actually doing, so they label it all the same thing. My sometimes 12 hours a day working at my PC can be writing a novel, doing a blog post here, paying my bills, chatting with friends, looking at the news, posting a resume, editing a picture, making a website, applying for a job, looking for a job, watching media, listening to music, and a host of other activities. Often more than one at the same time.

On the other hand they sit for easily 6 hours a day (when at home and not outside) in front of the tv. The tv doesn’t do anything except play non-interactive media. So this is a single activity repeated for multiple hours.

So I ask: Who exactly is the addict? I dont’ think it’s me.

For years though gaming has gotten a bad wrap as an addictive hobby. Some history on Gaming Addiction in the press (Pro and Con):

Laura Parker for Gamespot in 2009.

Paddy McGuire for BBC News in 2008.

John Timmer for ArsTechnica in 2008.

Neils Clark for Gamasutra in 2006.

Catching up on things I’ve started to write and just haven’t… Here is a post about this article and our governments attempts to pay tribute to our media overlords. The Media companies want to create a new variation on the classic ‘war on drugs’, by creating a new ‘war on pirates’ and making what counts as ‘piracy’.

So I’ve thought of explaining this from the beginning. Copyright, the thing they seem to consider so important we need to jail people for, was written into law to keep people from creating commercial products mirroring existing products copyrighted by companies (in much the fashion that trademark does, but applying to content rather than a trademark). The law always assumes someone wants to pirate things to sell whether that is a book, movie, music, etc. And because of that companies were given the ability to sue people in civil court to reclaim ‘lost’ profits (with considerable debate that they loose anything or that they even ‘serve’ the same market segments). The late 90’s brought the internet into things and many many people around the world sharing works not for profit, but to share things they liked in a more cultural context. This was the birth of the subtitled anime scene, MP3’s (& things like Napster), and later on concepts like youtube. None of these were for ‘commercial or profit’ distribution and while technically covered under the law, how it was to be covered proved… chaotic and very undefined as the laws just were not written to deal with private individuals sharing among each other with no profit motive.

That of course has not stopped the big media companies from cracking the whip to ‘protect’ their ‘IP’ during that period. Or flooding our courts with millions of civil claims. These cases though have cost the media companies millions in lawyer fees and they have blamed “pirates” on reducing their income for nearly a decade to try to get us as tax payers to pay for these things instead. Hence where the new law they wrote and want the government to sign off on, making these cases criminal and for as little as a 1 second clip they claim is theirs on youtube viewed by as few as 10 people could now mean you go to jail for five years. Is sharing a 1 second video clip with 10 people really worth 5 years in jail? I can think of literally millions of worse things that get less time and hurt us the people far more. I think this is just one more way that large companies have to much pull with our government that no longer serves the people who make it up.

Well you may have noticed I’ve been gone for a bit from writing new posts… Well my unemployment has run out and I’ve been trying to find a source of money to make up for it… That hasn’t gone so well.

I don’t qualify for any form of aid, the job market doesn’t look any better today than it has in ages, and even those groups that seem interested in me eventually pass me over for others. Now I know that two years of unemployment doesn’t look good to a perspective company, but it is not like I’ve just been sitting on my hands and doing nothing for two years.  I went back to school even though I don’t want anymore college loan debt. I have been looking for jobs, with a strong preference for ones in my field. None of that seems to mean anything though.

My parents also believe my last employer isn’t doing me any favors. I have heard this twice from would-be employers that they just don’t want to talk to anyone. Which leaves me looking dubious to would-be employers. “Why won’t they talk to us, was he horrible?” seems to be the thinking that goes on. That seems to be the point companies get to and then decide to go for someone else instead. But I don’t really know that is what they do… It just fits with the things I do know.

To make things worse, two accounts I have with access to my checking account have been hacked in the last two weeks. This shouldn’t really surprise anyone with the recent rash of large scale network intrusions and data loses for some big name companies. That started nearly two months ago with Sony. But many others have been effected since then including Capitol One, the FBI, Nintendo, the US Senate, and Bitcoin and ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc) were just hacked today. So no real surprise, but it made a mess out of my bank account as people have tried to withdraw money through other accounts from my bank account. Each place must ‘investigate’ things and they demand two weeks to clear things up. Leaving my bank account unaccessable even to me until they are done. That’s also assuming they decide in my favor, they are under no obligation to return my money and I’m in no position to sue them to force a return. But I’ve had to waste alot of time on the whole thing and the timing is rather poor.

And during the whole thing I’ve had my parents complain I don’t seem ‘concerned’ enough about everything. I have I.B.S. stress is direct physical discomfort or pain to me, the more stressed I become the more I want to avoid stressful things so I don’t feel like the walking dead or like I have an ulcer. Of course they will see me do things that are not specifically related to getting a job or solving the bank issues. I need to do them so I’m even capable of looking at my problems rather than being curled up in bed. They however don’t seem to understand that and instead give me even more stress.

Political Corruption

In what is all to common these days, recently their was a commissioner from the FCC who left only to take a job as a lobbyist for Comcast/NBC. A situation where she approved that merger, which strongly hints at a conflict of interest. You can read more about it here.

It goes along with my last post and how far our officials have fallen. It is really pretty sad. Do the bidding of some corporation with vast resources and then get a job handed to you after you decide it’s to much effort or the money is to tempting.

Carbon Taxes

You may have heard of carbon taxes before, a particular vice president who probably doesn’t need named was in favor of them. The idea behind them is that you are taxed on the amount of ‘carbon’ or other pollutants you use. Some environmentalists have been very outspoken on the idea. Someone brought it up the other day, so I felt compelled to write up my thoughts on it.

Carbon taxes to the middle and upper class mind are not so bad. They provide monetary incentives to be more ‘green’ and live more responsibly. For people who have cash to use on buying a more efficient car (preferably a true hybrid) or who can afford expensive 25% more expensive, but 100 times more environmentally friendly products this just isn’t an issue.

To those living on fixed budgets and often paycheck to paycheck budgets there is no money for these things. Often a poorer person makes as much or less per year than the cost of a modern hybrid car. Their car is most likely a used car or pickup truck and they bought it for under $10k. They can’t realistically afford a more fuel efficient car or even a newer car unless theirs falls apart. They can afford ‘green’ light bulbs that cost $5/bulb compared to a $0.75/bulb regular light.

They also don’t have money for new taxes. While a ‘Carbon tax’ isn’t such a big deal to people with the money to pay it, it becomes crippling to the poorer people. People who btw don’t get seats in congress or even at the state level. The common person isn’t represented at all. In fact congress critters get paid more than alot of people in this country in direct ‘wages’. $174,000 these days fyi for a job with lower hours than teachers and with lovely fringe travel benefits. Majority and minority leaders as well as speakers of the house make near or over $200k a year.

Of course those people don’t give a rats ass about implementing carbon taxes, they won’t be affected meaningfully. So they feel free to talk about this sort of thing without a care in the world for the little people who will be hurt by it. We already have lots of social programs being cut to make budgets that are the legacy of these people. The worst we can do to them is not electing them again, they don’t bear any financial or morale burden with leading us into problems and not getting the job again. They just become new lobbyists when their political careers end (and make as much or more money). For a nation where 90% of the people have 10% of the money, they certainly are not in the 90% group.

Finals Week

Sadly I’ve been preoccupied this week, because it’s the end of the semester at my college. Even for someone going back to school or maybe because I’m someone who hasn’t been to a college in years finals are always annoying for me. Tuesday was a day of rest and then the finals started. I only have one per day, but these tests are designed to take nearly 2 hours… And usually they do take that much time.

Being sick hasn’t helped either. I’m still not feeling ‘normal’. I have been lucky to avoid anymore intense pain though and haven’t had to have any emergency room visits. Always a plus in my book.

I do however have a post I’m working on… Maybe even two. Though I’m not likely to finish either until at least Friday night.

Cars: In the Snow

While the season for snow is finally past, I’ve been thinking of how the cars I’ve owned have handled snow. What may seem odd is that the two most recent I’ve driven have done the best, even though they are very different cars.

To start my first time ever in winter was with my ’95 Sentra. It wasn’t great in winter, but it didn’t have any real issues. It was front wheel drive, so it is quite like many other cars I’ve had. Columbus, where I lived during the time I owned it, had very little snow.  The one time they had an inch of accumulation created a mass of closings and a six hour traffic jam from people unable to drive even in such light snow. All of which I found funny as I spent at least a few weeks back home in the snow every winter.

My Eagle Summit never drove well at all, but was not any worse in snow then it was on dry ground. It was crushed before much of any snowfall had occured.

The Grand Am sucked on the other hand. The rear end was constantly tempted to slide in even light snow. This tendency is likely the reason the car hit the mailbox in the first place in the accident that took it out.

The Intrepid was good in snow. The rear end didn’t tend to slide like the Grand Am did. It proved reliable in all weather. In fact it became my favorite car before the truck ran the red light and turned it into scrap.

Hence I wanted my next car the LHS as it’s replacement. Built on the same frame and with similar styling. Having had it longer than any other car though I can call it the champ of all cars I’ve ever driven. I’ve driven it in snow taller than the wheel hubs on roads that simply couldn’t be cleared and with the only other vehicles on the road being 4 wheel drive trucks. It has enough power to just push forward if it can get any traction at all. The issue becomes when it needs to stop. Like most wheeled vehicles getting traction after having stopped is hard. So the only thing to worry about in winter is those times where you can’t move.

Now though I can add the Subaru Legacy to the list. the Legacy may not have the power of the LHS, but it is light and if you give it some force going into piles of snow it is very likely to simply climb over. Helped by it’s all wheel drive, so only one wheel ever needs to have traction. This last winter I was driving this during a snow storm that closed down my normal way home, not wanting to go over an hour out of my way to get home I opted to take a collection of back roads. unplowed roads. The few other people on the roads with me probably thought I was nuts in their offroad trucks, but I made it through without ever getting stuck. It however drives in winter in a very different style than my LHS.

Both of my most recently driven cars dont’ have to be built for offroad use just to get around in winter. In fact my LHS doesn’t need the All-wheel or 4-wheel drive my mom insists on. While their may be times that it helps, keeping awareness of the environment is a better idea than relying on All-wheel or 4-wheel drive to save you…