Archive for February, 2010

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What Are You So Afraid Of?

[ 5 Comments ]Posted on February 23, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Or…How Learned To Stop Worrying & Enjoy My Abject Poverty. Whoever said there’s nothing to fear but fear itself probably had a job. And has never spent time in Detroit at night.

Recently, I found myself experiencing something I hadn’t felt in a while: FEAR. At first I was calling it anxiety, saying things like “I’m just a little anxious” about this or that thing. But it persisted, and as I explored the feeling, I realized it really was – plain and simple – fear. Do you ever feel anxious or fearful? Maybe you need to take the Anxiety Potential Quiz if you’re not sure. I generally don’t experience a lot of fear, so it was an extremely uncomfortable feeling for me. I could have probably gone to a doctor and said “wow, I’m really anxious all the time” and ended up getting a prescription for it, but that presented two problems for me. First of all, it seems like a fear-based reaction to fear; an attempt to just make it “go away” instead of confronting it. And secondly, I don’t have insurance, which is a nice segue into a broader angle on fear. Insurance itself is part of the Culture of Fear that many say we live in. It’s an elaborate scheme of high-risk investments using the money you give someone to protect you in case something you don’t know is going to happen to you does in fact happen to you. That view on insurance actually makes me fear it more than any unexpected tragedies that await me. So what to do when you’re feeling fear? In my case most of my fears lately revolve around my phones getting shut off or having to live on ramen because my business ventures have all hit a wall. So all I really have to do is get a job, right? Well, then I’m likely to start experiencing Job Search Anxiety. So let’s get more to the bottom of this fear thing. What is it really? Well, you can take the How Stuff Works approach and break it down into its biological Read the rest of this entry »

Bill & TED’s Energy Adventure

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on February 22, 2010 by admin in Clean & Green

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Whether you agree with Bill Gates’ recent TED talk or not, he’s at least keeping clean energy in the media with his zero-emissions pitch.

While I think it would be perfectly reasonable to question whether or not we want the man who brought the world the Blue Screen of Death and Clippy focusing his energies on nuclear power, I would still encourage anyone to take the time to watch Bill Gates’ recent TED talk (video below), and to recommend it to friends as well. Why? Because in spite of the fact that in a way it’s just a plug for his investments, and in spite of the fact that the arguments for and against what he said are all over the map (this BoingBoing post was fairly Stepford Wives-ish in tone, but the commenters fixed that in hurry), the fact remains that he did one very positive thing with his talk: he got the media talking about green energy issues (and in a very sticky, contentious way) with his bold assertion that we need to aim not merely for reductions in emissions, but for zero emissions. To me, it’s a tragedy that the politicizing of global warming and emissions issues detracts from the simple fact that we shouldn’t NEED an apocalyptic reason to have a cleaner, more efficient world. What rational argument could there possiby be against doing it just because it MAKES SENSE? In any case, the clip is a bit longish, and Bill’s “hip-three-years-ago” glasses only contribute to the overall “SNL Pat” look he’s sporting these days, but whether you agree with him or not, he throws an important objective on the table, and has generated a lot of green talk just by being Bill Gates. By the way, if you’ve wondered what Bill has been up to since his retirement, check out his site, The Gates Notes. Read the rest of this entry »

Terrorists & Teabaggers

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 21, 2010 by admin in Politics

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

The greatest threat to American security right now is probably a white fella from the heartland.


Is this what you picture when
you hear the word “terrorist”?

Just when I was starting to find this whole teabagging thing entertaining, some mentally unstable individual in Texas has to go and wreck everything for me. You’ve almost certainly heard about Joe Stack burning his house down and crashing his plane into the IRS office in Austin, TX. But did you read his final note at embeddedart.com? If not, I’ve saved an original copy here. I saw it the morning before his hosting company decided to take it down for bandwidth reasons, so unlike the nutjobs posting in the forum the hosting company courteously provided visitors, I’m confident that there’s no FBI coverup conspiracy behind the takedown. I’m not surprised that both liberal and conservative sources are trying to link or unlink his action with the teabagger movement though; that’s just par for the course in politics these days. But to me it’s clear that he was just a fairly intelligent person who became consumed by his own pathological thinking. Reading Stack’s last words made me especially uncomfortable, partly because – like many of us – I can find myself agreeing with a lot of what he said. It revived unpleasant memories of reading Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s ramblings; there were portions of his lumbering manifesto that any modern person might agree with, but the overall tone and the author’s real-world actions rendered any points one might agree with irrelevant. For me, this was especially true in Kaczynski’s case; a personal friend of mine was one of the victims of his deranged actions. But back to the teabagger link. Is there a connection? How can a reasonably informed person deny that regardless of whether Stack considered himself a teabagger, he ABSOLUTELY had common ground with them? It’s ironic that a recent Fox News piece expressed concern with the headline Radical Anti-tax Groups Growing Threat, when it’s the opportunistic sentiment-baiting that Fox News and Bitchzilla from Wasilla (yeah, I can say that, there’s no editor around here) engage in that fuels the kind of rage that sparks violent protests and makes crazy men fly planes into buildings or bulldoze their houses. I imagine we’ll see a few more tragic events over the next few years as a result of people’s frustration with money & taxes. This Newsweek blog post points out that there have been 75 domestic incidents since the Oklahoma bombings, with 6 of them specifically targeting the IRS. I find it more than a little ironic that a government that was born of tax rebellion and presently sees terrorism as a threat from Islam is going through a two-decade struggle with domestic terrorists. If you’re not familiar with the recent history of violence and the American radical right, the Read the rest of this entry »

So It’s Canadian Pirates vs. The RIAA, eh?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 20, 2010 by admin in Music

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Not content with suing dead people, old ladies who don’t own computers, and their own artists and distibution channels, the record industry is going after those archvillains of the arctic, CANADA.

In their never-ending quest for most absurd litigation to make its way into the apparently oblivious judicial system, the record industry is stepping it up a notch. No, it wasn’t enough to steal from their own artists and corrupt the legal system, or to sue a single woman for $80,000 per allegedly pirated song (oh wait, it got reduced to a mere $2,250!), or sue dead people, people who don’t even own computers, and the entire radio industry. No, now they’re taking on the country that – as we all know – is home to the most ruthless criminal networks of the Americas. You know, Canada. Who knew that aside from being a country full of pretty nice people whose greatest crime may be occasionaly finishing sentences with “eh?”, Canada is also a hotbed of profit-robbing music piracy? As far as I knew, the only threat that Canada had brought to the established music industry recently was a really awesome indy scene, but the RIAA sees things a little differently. Fortunately, this may be one of the last times that you’ll have to endure wingnuts like me ranting about this; dinosaur labels like EMI are soon likely to be laying about in massive heaps gasping for their last breaths like their metaphoric counterparts at the end of the Jurassic period, as they continue to blame their $2.7 billion losses on piracy rather than their failure to adapt to competition. I tend to get a little over-the-top when I discuss this topic; for a much more sane overview from an artist’s point of view, check out this New York Times piece by Damian Kulash Jr. of the band OK Go, in which he calmly describes how EMI’s disabling of the “embed” feature on YouTube has probably lost them exponentially more than what they made by “protecting” their property.

The Adobe Apocalypse

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 19, 2010 by admin in Technology

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Why I hate Adobe, and how their products could bring down western civilization.

I’ve been deriving secret glee from Steve Jobs’ repeated slams against Adobe Flash. Although I have a lot of friends who are hard-core Adobephiles, I have to admit I’ve always quietly loathed the company’s products. I always found the interface of two of their flagship products – Photoshop and Illustrator – immensely counter-intuitive, and the software itself ridiculously expensive. As a web developer, I’ll also never forget the sneering contempt of a lot of Adobe-centric print shops when bringing them files that weren’t in their beloved .ai, .eps, or .pdf formats. Their most pervasive products – Acrobat and Flash – have also brought me agony in a variety of other ways. Who hasn’t struggled at some point extracting content from or converting a PDF file? Or had one crash while loading in their browser? One of many stories I could share about Acrobat would include the time I had a friend working for the Peace Corps in the Ukraine (Hi Ben!) who needed some simple training materials for classes he was teaching. He could find the material from free legitimate sources in PDF’s, but guess what? The security settings that some nitwit had added made it impossible to print them from the print menu. Enter the questionable legality of the Advanced eBook Processor, which made a joke of Acrobat’s security and encryption and allowed me to free up the restriction for him. Don’t sue me; I did it in the name of international cooperation and education! And Flash? Although it was an amazing product when in the hands of Macromedia (the company that developed it), Adobe acquired Macromedia and rolled their two coolest products (Flash and Dreamweaver) into their Evil Empire of Creative Suite (pick up a copy today, it’s only $2300!). Dreamweaver became much more buggy and cumbersome, and Flash? It’s a browser-crashing system hog riddled with security holes. When you consider the fact that Flash security issues effect THE ENTIRE INTERNET (Adobe claims 99% market saturation of Flash amongst web users) and the recent report that malicious PDF files comprised 80 percent of all exploits for 2009, you can probably stop worrying about the Internet Explorer facilitated China/Google hacking; Adobe’s buggy and vulnerability-riddled products could bring down western civilization as we know it.

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