CRS releases report on income inequality in the US

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service just released an updated report titled “U.S. Income Distribution and Mobility: Trends and International Comparisons”  dated 11/29/12. In it they find that over the past few decades, the rich have gotten a lot richer.  In addition, the data they analyzed “suggest that those at the very top have reaped disproportionately larger gains from economic growth.  In the report’s comparison with other countries, it stated “the U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income dispersion.

Why do (or should) I care?  I have nothing against the wealthy.  But… I’m really starting to get pissed with all the nonsense about the “fiscal cliff” and how it’s “ok” to cut benefits & raise taxes on the middle class, but not on the wealthy.  Uh… excuse me… but I think most American’s realize that the greatest number of tax breaks (& loopholes) apply, many exclusively, to only the wealthy.

Oh… and all that crap from the GOP that lowering taxes on the wealthy creates more jobs & improves the economy?  Uh, well, uh… the CRS released a report in September titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945” which found no correlation between reduced tax rates and increased economic growth over the past 6+ decades.  Of course, the GOP didn’t like that & forced the CRS to withdraw the report (see NY Times article Non-Partisan Tax Report Withdrawn after GOP Protest).  The report states “data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.

Ya just gotta love the Republican Party, eh?  To heck with woman’s rights, Planned Parenthood, Social Security, Medicare. and even PBS/NPR; and to heck with all the people EXCEPT the rich.  I’m embarrassed to even admit that I ever voted Republican!

All I ask is to be taxed fairly.  If there are benefits to be granted, then they should be distributed from the bottom up… not from top (most wealthy) down.  Maybe it’s time to finally throw out our overly complicated tax system and just switch to a Flat Tax.  Things have gotten so ridiculous & our representatives so useless that I’m beginning to believe that only a “Flat Tax” system can save us.

But what the heck do I know?

Old Farts that use Computers are less likely to get DEMENTIA!

A new report just published from Australia claims that aging men (69-87) that use computers are less likely to get dementia (up to a 40% lower incidence rate).  The conclusion of the report: “Older men who use computers have lower risk of receiving a diagnosis of dementia up to 8.5 years later.

The report is summarized in The Register and is available free from PLos ONE (pdf download).

The study broke out the numbers by type of computer use (Email, Games, Internet, Word processing & Other), with Internet use having one of the lowest dementia incident ratios.  Their results also indicate that using the computer more often reduces the incidence of dementia.

Cumulative hazard of dementia among older men according to their use of computers.

Altho’ I’m not in the study’s age group, from the results shown above (Fig 1) I’m hoping that the earlier you start & the more you use computers, the better the results.

If you don’t feel you’re using the computer enuf, then take a stab at a free game called Entanglement.  It’s not only addicting, but it requires some serious thought.  To see how to play, click on “Menu” on the right side of the page followed by “How to Play.”


The War on Pubic Hair — What? Why? How Come? Huh?

Finally!  An article that addresses my own meager observations concerning the disappearance of pubic hair on women over the past couple decades (and on men, too, according to The Atlantic article).  I find great joy in finally seeing an article that starts out with the line “I must have missed the declaration of war on pubic hair,” as that’s exactly how I feel.  I mean, I didn’t necessarily miss it… I did notice the disappearing pubes… I just didn’t know it had gone this far… or that it was ‘a war.’  It seems (to me, anyways) like this all came about with little to no public conversation or reporting.  Gee… haven’t we evolved enough to allow a general discussion about ‘pubic hair’?  To shave… or not to shave???  (Apparently not)

So… why do I care?  Well, I don’t, really.  I just don’t understand why.  I’m of the “if it’ ain’t broke, then don’t fix it” generation.  My motto is:  We came with hair, so leave it there!  I choose to believe that it’s probably there for a reason (and no… not just because we’re all chimpanzee or gorilla descendants)

Oh well… just so long as Congress doesn’t pass a law requiring me to shave MY pubes (which, BTW, wouldn’t surprise me), then so be it.

In case you’re interested, here’s several articles I found that discuss the “Case of the Missing Pubes”:

Gotta go… uh… scratch… my pubes… before they disappear.

Synchronize & Backup Files with SyncEXP — A Short Tutorial

SyncEXP is a free file and folder synchronization tool that I mentioned  a couple years ago in my list of favorite PC programs & utilities.  I’ve been using this tool daily for many years to not only keep files synchronized on my multiple PCs & laptops (over my wired & wireless network), but as my primary backup tool with USB external HDDs.  SyncEXP is a standalone executable file and does not require installation.  Just unzip it somewhere on your hard drive or USB stick & run.

SyncEXP is extremely easy to use, but it does take a little practice in order to gain confidence and eliminate user errors.  As the ReadMe file that comes with it mentions, make sure you review the “Preview” screen before completing a synchronization because all file deletions are permanent.

SynEXP Main ScreenHere’s what you see when you first run SyncEXP.   I’ve circled “Include sub-folder” as this check-box defaults to unchecked for each task you create.  Unless you specifically do not want to synchronize sub-folders, always check this box to synchronize ALL files in the specified task folder.

For each “Task” you create, select folders (Host & Mirror) that you want to synchronize on either the same system; with a folder on another PC/laptop; or with a folder on an external HDD.  You can synchronize entire hard drives (i.e., C:\), but the “Preview” screen could be extremely lengthy.

You’ll first want to set up all your tasks (all the file folders you want to synchronize) and then click on the Save button (floppy disk icon) in the upper left-hand corner to save the configuration.  Always double check that the “Include sub-folder” is checked, otherwise you may not be fully synchronizing all the files under the specified root folder you selected.

Browser for Host/Mirror Folder screenFor each task you must specify the Host and Mirror folder, followed by setting the six “File synchro options” at the bottom which allow you to specify the file copy, delete or ignore operations.  You can either enter the Host & Mirror locations or click on the Browse button; navigate to the desired folder; then click the “OK” button.  Double-check the six “File synchro options” carefully for each task, as this is where many user errors occur.

I pretty much use only two File synchro option settings.  One for copying between two systems in which the newest files are copied both TO & FROM the host & mirror system (bidirectional synchronization); the other for copying ONLY from the Host system to a backup external HDD (unidirectional) – the Mirror folder.

The two snapshots below indicate these two settings:

Bi-directional SyncUni-directional Sync

SyncEXP Main Screen w/Tasks

The snapshot to the right shows a completed task list.  Inside the upper left-hand red circle are the New Task; Copy Task; and Delete Task buttons.  After entering your first folder & setting the file synchro options, I suggest you copy that task for all subsequent folders; rename it; & enter the new Host & Mirror folder locations.  Otherwise you’ll have to set each of the six file synchro options for each & every task (which is a pain in the arse if you have a lot of tasks).

Note the area in the middle red circle.  Here you can choose to include or exclude specified sub-folders.  This can be useful when you’re syncing your laptop to your desktop PC & your laptop HDD does not have enough disk space to fully synchronize with a particularly large folder on the desktop.

SyncEXP Advanced Options screenThe circled “Advanced Options” in the upper right-hand corner of the previous snapshot allows you to include, ignore or delete only specified files or file types.  In addition, you can also specify a username & password if your network requires it.  The settings shown on the right are what you get if you click on the “Defaults” button in lower left-hand corner.  I strongly suggest that you DO NOT check “Auto Mode” as this will eliminate the Preview window and Results dialog.  I always check the “Ignore one hour time difference…” because for some reason this seems to occur more often than you would expect between different systems.

Before executing SyncEXP, you must check the box next to each of the Tasks (folders) in the Task List on SyncEXP’s main screen that you want to synchronize.  If you want to sync all tasks defined, right-click on a task & select “Check All” from the pop-up menu.  To execute, click the green arrow just to the right of the Delete Task button.  SyncEXP will compare all files for the first task selected & display the “Preview” screen below:

SyncEXP Preview Screen

Please note that NO files have been copied or deleted yet.  The above screen provides a preview of what files WILL be copied (or deleted) if you click on the “Sync Now” button.  The lower left-hand corner indicates that 10 files will be copied.  The Blue & Red arrows in the “Export” sub-folder of “blogs” indicates that files will be copied in both directions (from Host-to-Mirror and from Mirror-to-Host).  The Blue arrow in the left “Images” sub-folder indicates that files will only be copied from the Host to the Mirror sub-folder.  To see which files will be copied, click on each of the folders with Blue or Magenta arrows.  Clicking on the “Export” sub-folder displays the following screen:

SyncEXP Preview Screen

The above snapshot shows all the files in the “Export” sub-folder.  File names in black are the same in both folders.  Highlighted files (two in Blue; two in Magenta) indicate differences between the the two folders & the files that will be copied when you click on “Sync Now”.  If desired, you can click the left check-box of any of these files to ignore them (they won’t be copied if the check-mark is cleared).  As in the Task List check boxes on the SyncEXP main screen, right click anywhere in the file list and you can either clear or check all boxes via the pop-up menu.  Under the “=” column you can left-click on the Blue or Magenta arrows to cycle through applicable options.  In this particular case the only option offered is to delete the file.

You can cycle the display between all files shown or just differences with the buttons in the lower right-hand corner — black Asterik (*) for All Files; red “Equals Sign with Slash” to show only differences between the Host & Mirror folder.  When dealing with folders or sub-folders with lots of files, you’ll definitely want to click on the red “Equals Sign with Slash” to limit your view to only folder/sub-folder differences.  The snapshot below is an example:

SyncEXP Preview Screen

If I were to left-click on the “Images” folder, the Preview window would display (in the right-hand pane) the six files in the Host “Images” sub-folder that will be copied to the Mirror “Images” sub-folder.

To perform the file synchronization for this task, just click on the “Sync Now” button.  A window will display indicating the status of the synchronization, followed by a Results log window showing the number of files transferred and/or deleted.  Take note of the final entry “Failed to synchronize.”  You want to see a big fat zero to indicate success.  If not zero, the files that were unsuccessfully copied will be indicated above in this window.  Click on the “Close” button to dismiss the Results log window and begin the next Task comparison (that is, if you checked more than one Task to synchronize on the main SyncEXP screen).   If no other tasks remain to be synced, you’ll be returned to the main SyncEXP screen.

As stated in the SyncEXP readme file, I strongly suggest that you create a couple of dummy test folders on your system; populate them with various files; edit some of the files in each folder so there are date-time or file size differences; then get familiar with SyncEXP using these dummy folders.  Always review the Preview screen carefully before clicking on the “Sync Now” button, especially if you only have one backup.

If the link to download SyncEXP at the top of this post is not working, I’ve placed a copy of the program here.

Good Luck!

Colorado Hummers (at my feeder, they are…)

A few pics of hummingbirds visiting our feeder this summer.

Slide shows w/full-size photos are here (#1) and here (#2).

Colorado Hummingbirds (2012)

Colorado Hummingbirds (2012)

Colorado Hummingbirds (2012)

  • All pics taken w/Canon EOS Rebel T3 w/Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens


This is how I feel about religion… & 15 tidbits about Coffee

This comic  titled How to suck at your religion from “The Oatmeal” captures pretty much perfectly just how I feel about religion (and many religious people I know or have known).

Also check out The Oatmeal for 15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee.”

Kansas! The uber-religious, anti-abortion PORN STATE!

I just got back from loading up and driving a slow rental truck from Knoxville, Tennessee to Colorado.  Needless to say, I spent a great deal of time on Interstate 70.

Have you ever noticed that wherever extremely religious people are found, bizarre behavior or customs seem to prevail?

I tried to take a rough count of highway signs (billboards) along I-70 in Kansas and guess what?  Adult Superstore billboards (porn) seemed to win by a large margin.  In between all the porn superstore signs are primarily religious signs (Porn Destroys Families; Jesus Hates Abortion; etc., etc., etc.).  Cute, eh?

Now… are the majority of customers for all these ‘porn superstores’ from out of state or just truckdrivers?  I seriously doubt that.  Although I’d prefer much fewer billboard advertisements along any highway, I have nothing against adult store advertisements in particular.  In fact, if I had to choose between only religious or adult bookstore signs, I’d take the adult advertisements every time.  (Guess that makes me a pervert, eh?)

Here’s my observation from living in nearly a dozen states & all the religious people (of many religions) I’ve known over the past several decades:

How extreme the religious beliefs a person has is directly proportional to how big a pervert that person is.

Now this is just a rule of thumb, and most certainly not always true.  But it’s been more true than not in my experience.

P.S.  In Missouri, they seem to prefer “Gentleman’s Club” vs. “Adult Superstore” with respect to billboard language.  Isn’t that nice!

Data Caps (Usage Based Pricing) for Wired Broadband in America!

I wrote a post nearly a year & a half ago concerning Canada’s ISP-forced metered internet usage, warning that this is likely to spread to America.  Well…. apparently it’s here.

Public Knowledge paper “Know Your Limits”Public Knowledge published a paper last week about data caps and so-called “usage-based billing.”  Directly from their Executive Summary:

Usage-based pricing (UBP), today most commonly encountered in the form of data caps, is rapidly becoming part of the Internet access landscape.

The paper considers economic and historical perspectives and raises some concerns, both in regards to competition and to national priorities such as broadband adoption, education, employment, and innovation more generally.

Unfortunately, not too long ago the FCC gave UBP an unequivocal green light (at the request of industry stakeholders) to expressly allow “bandwidth- or consumption-based” billing to address network congestion (whether or not it exists!).  The FCC adopted the reasoning that UBP (which includes data caps) can be an effective mechanism to ensure that consumers pay for what they use.

This argument alludes to many falsehoods, including that Internet bandwidth is being eaten up by Bandwidth Hogs.  Here’s what the report says:

Before considering the existence of Bandwidth hogs, we should examine the nature of Internet access as a service.  For starters, bits are not physical goods, and therefore cannot be “consumed” in any meaningful sense.  Absent network congestion, one person’s use of bandwidth does not interfere with another’s.  This is because the Internet is largely a “non-rivalrous” technology:  one’s use or consumption of the Internet does not impede or deprive anyone else from enjoying it as well.  Furthermore unlike, for example, vehicular traffic, bits do not “wear out the road.”  Maintenance costs for networking equipment are not directly related to the volume of traffic they process.  The rhetoric behind the cost-recovery rationale for data caps is heavily charged with notions of equity, scarcity, and unjust  subsidization.  It begins with the intuitively appealing notion that users of a resource should “pay for what they use.”

The Internet is based on a technical concept called “statistical multiplexing” where multiple users can share the same bandwidth that previously would be consumed by one user making a single phone call.  In theory, with statistical multiplexing there is no limit on how many users can share the bandwidth represented by the circuit for a single phone call.  Unlike other utilities such as water, electricity, gas or oil, where the product is actually “consumed” by end users, network bandwidth is never truly “consumed”: bandwidth is infinitely reusable and therefore only temporarily in use (or “consumed”) at any given time.

Although our major ISPs make the claim that UBP is needed to counter network congestion, there is no data available to support their claim.  Network congestion apparently does occasionally occur, almost exclusively during the evening hours (after work) when people are getting their Netflix or Hulu fixes.  But UBP will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to alleviate this congestion — when & if it occurs.  More often than not, it’s due to the ISP’s practice of “oversubscription” (i.e., selling more bandwidth than it can actually provide at any given time).  This usually happens at the endpoints, i.e., neighborhood Customer Aggregation Equipment (CAE).  Fortunately, this is easily (& inexpensively) resolved by the ISPs.

Bottom line?  For both cable (coax) & wired (tele company) broadband, there is little evidence that “bandwidth hogs” are imposing costs that are either unpaid or borne by other users.

All data coming from Canada (& other countries) that have imposed data caps indicate that competition (as in lack of), rather than congestion, determines whether a service provider feels entitled to impose UBP on its customers — which is particularly troubling in the U.S. given the lack of competition in the broadband market.

The communications industry in the U.S. is moving rapidly towards UBP, and is stigmatizing flat rate pricing as unjust and unsustainable.  However, much of the rest of the world (except Canada) is moving in the other direction.

The conclusion of the paper begins with:

Flat pricing schemes should be regarded as an ideal goal, supporting innovation and social and economic welfare, and not as irrational aberrations that promote inefficiency and waste.  However, sometimes temporary resource constraints may make flat rates infeasible.   Currently, in the wired Internet, that does not appear to be a real concern, as the rate of progress in technology appears to be comparable to the rate at which traffic demand is rising, so that should be possible to support the growth in traffic without increases in the level of investment.  On the wireless side, traffic is growing faster than carriers are investing in capacity improvements, so the case for UBP appears far stronger.

My concern is with wired broadband, not wireless.  With more ISPs (i.e., Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) offering their own content, which does not count against their data caps, it’s going to get increasingly difficult (& definitely more expensive) for users to obtain content from 3rd-party providers like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, etc..  In addition, it will hasten the downfall of any 3rd-party competition.  The sad fact of the matter is that American ISPs have a monopoly.  By allowing them to also sell their own content, they’re now in a position to eliminate any outside competition.  This will make it even more difficult to ‘cut the cord’ from cable content.

Don’t ya just love how monopolies rule in America?


“The Case for Copyright Reform” — Free Book! — Read it!!!

The Case for Copyright ReformChristian Engstrom and Rick Falkvinge have just released The Case for Copyright Reform, a 107-page eBook (PDF, ePub, mobi) outlining a vision for reconciling copyright protection with the reality of widespread digital sharing.

I’ve read over a dozen copyright-related books over the past 10+ years, some more than 500 pages in length, but never have I read a more compelling case for the need to reform copyright law as is presented in this relatively short book.

It starts out with the fact that today’s copyright legislation is completely out of  balance and out of tune with the current times.  It has turned an entire generation of young people into criminals in the eyes of the law, in a futile attempt at stopping technological development.  And yet… file sharing continues to grow exponentially.

The “bottom line” of the book:  It is impossible to enforce the ban against non-commercial file sharing without infringing on fundamental human rights.

The book provides an ample dose of copyright monopoly history and how it came about,  primarily instituted as a censorship mechanism back in the 1500’s.  Isn’t ironic that now, several hundred years during which the “censorship” portion was somewhat eliminated, the content industry is having such great success in passing laws in the US (and throughout the world) requiring “censorship” of the Internet?

In 1641, when England’s Parliament abolished the court for copyright cases & made violations of copyright a sentence-less crime (no punishment), creativity in Britain soared.  This only lasted a couple years before the Stationers (printing guild monopoly) reestablished harsh punishments.  In 1695 the Stationer’s monopoly expired and there was once again NO copyright.  Creativity AGAIN soared.  Unfortunately, the London Company of Stationers once again were able to get their monopoly reinstated.  It is noteworthy that authors did not ask for the copyright monopoly — only the printers & distributors did.

“What we see at this point in history is copyright in its unspun form:  a monopoly with heritage from censorship where artists and authors were not even considered, but where it was always for the publishers profit.”

Gee… that doesn’t at all sound like the MPAA & RIAA, does it?  (Nah…. that could never happen…)

Although copyright didn’t originate in the United States, our constitution was the first one to specify the REASON for copyrights (and patents) to be granted:

… to promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts…

Please note:  the purpose of the US-established copyright monopoly was NOT for any profession to make money — neither writer nor printer nor distributor.  The only justification for the monopoly is if it maximizes the culture and knowledge available to society.

The monopoly holders, while certainly being beneficiaries of the monopoly, are NOT legitimate stakeholders and should have NO say in its wording!

Uh… gee… uh… then why is the content industry allowed to take charge in writing bills and treaties in the US Government???  (i.e., SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, TPP, to name just a few).  Not to mention their success in getting the US Government’s own Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to act as the content industry’s copyright enforcers on the Internet.

In the late 1800s, the publishers’ ever-strengthening copyright monopoly had removed creators’ chances of making any revenue from their works.  Due to the copyright monopoly, all the money went to publishers and distributors, leaving creators starving.  Wow.  That’s not much different than the situation now.  Do you get it?  200+ years later and nothing has changed!

What is happening today with the “Copyright Industry vs. the People” is practically identical to what happened when the printing press was introduced and the Catholic Church declared war on self-educated people.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 4:

The printing press was a disruptive technology that threatened the control over information that the Catholic Church had enjoyed so far. When the old power structures saw the risk of their power slipping away or being eroded, they fought back in every way they could. And although technology won in the end, the former information monopolists managed to create quite a lot of collateral damage to society before they had to accept the inevitable defeat.

The Internet is a disruptive technology that threatens the control over information that the entertainment industry has enjoyed so far. When the old power structures see the risk of their power slipping away or being eroded, they fight back in every way they can. And although technology will win in the end, the former information monopolists are creating quite a lot of collateral damage to society right now.

Our job is to put an end to this damage as quickly as possible, so that society can take full advantage of the new opportunities that technology has opened up. The region of the world that is the first one to achieve this will be among the economic winners of this century.

As I mentioned above, I’ve read a lot of books on copyright history over the past decade or two, and this is by far the most precise & compact compilation of copyright monopoly history I’ve ever found in one book.  If reading this doesn’t alter your view on copyright and the danger of unlimited copyright monopolies, then we might as well give up now & go ahead and let them fully censor the Internet.  If we (the people) don’t stand up for our fundamental rights, we’re going to lose them.

File sharing has been rampant for over a decade now, and yet we have more music; more movies; and even more books being created than ever before.  Revenues have increased year by year for both the cultural sector as a whole, and for each individual segment (i.e., film, music, books, computer games).  The content industry’s bogus claim that file sharing is killing the creative industry is just that — BOGUS!  There is not (and never has been) any credible data to support ANY of their claims.  The only “losers” have been the gatekeepers, or middlemen (RIAA, MPAA), whose obsolete business models do not work anymore.  They’ve now aimed their sights at destroying what happens to be the latest disruptive technology – the Internet – with the firm assistance of the US Government, attempting to eliminate our right to private communication, due process, and proportionality in punishments.

Our policy makers & politicians have a responsibility for making sure that we have a society where culture can flourish and where creative people have a chance to make money from what they do — NOT protect old business models or invent new ones.   It is not easy to make a living as an artist, and never has been, but the Internet has opened up new opportunities for creative people who want to find an audience — WITHOUT selling their soul to the big companies who used to control all the distribution channels.

The Case for Copyright Reform is available in these formats:

Better Buy GPS for your car now (before NHTSA renders it useless)

I just saw the C/NET article (Fed driver distraction guidelines make navigation unusable) by Wayne Cunningham reviewing the recently issued National Highway Transportation Safety Agency guidelines for automakers to minimize distraction for in-vehicle electronics.

Not to worry… “NHTSA says you can keep your GPS — as long as it’s completely useless” (Techdirt article).   Me thinks their new acronym should be NHTSBA (Nat’l Highway Transporation Safety & Buffoon Agency).

Now… I don’t have a GPS, auto or handheld (altho’ I’ll probably buy one now before the NHTSBA renders them useless).  I grew up with maps and still use them.  Most folks probably don’t even remember the Rand McNally Road Atlas that nearly everyone who traveled cross-country had.  When is the last time you saw maps for sale in a gas station?

I was a navigator in the Navy (NFO) and we relied exclusively on maps.  Even when GPS became more prevalent, training still included extensive map training, as the Navy used to follow the axiom: “The more you rely on technology, the more likely that technology will fail when you need it most”  (in other words, the reliability of technology tends to be inversely proportional to just how badly you need it to complete your mission).  Yes, I know… yet another version of Murphy’s Law.

But I digress… back to NHTSBA’s recommendations.  Why not cut to the chase and make the leap to new technology?  Like Cadillac’s new “Driver Awareness & Driver Assist” package, in which the seat vibrates to alert the driver to roadway threats.   That technology could be modified to vibrate the hell out of your ass whenever it determines that you’re distracted (or falling asleep).  Because some people – of either sex – might find a vibrating seat just a little “TOO” enjoyable, why not go with electrodes (or a butt probe) that shocks the shit out of you when the system somehow determines that you’re either distracted or falling asleep at the wheel?

Better yet… isn’t it about time that the “Heads-Up Display” technology prevalent in military aircraft finally became mainstream in the automobile?  With GPS overlays of driving instructions to a desired location displayed right on your windshield?   Of course, prepare yourself for complete failure of this technology when you absolutely NEED to get to your destination for any of the following possible reasons:

  • Trying to find the closest hospital to deliver an emergency victim
  • Trying to find the closest bathroom
  • Late for job interview
  • Late for wedding
  • Nearest Starbucks
  • Nearest Bar or Medical Marijuana Dispensary
  • Finding your way back home…
  • etc., etc., etc.

Ain’t technology just wonderful???

P.S.  As a backup for technology failure, don’t to forget to look up your destination on Google Maps & print it out BEFORE you jump in the car! (and, uh, don’t forget to bring it with you)

Watch Out! ISP’s to become “copyright cops” starting July 1, 2012

In case you’re not aware, on the 1st of July Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — to name a few — will begin monitoring our Internet traffic to crack down on alleged piracy.  This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as this “deal” between ISPs and the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright holders, was made last June (with pressure from our pro-RIAA White House, no less).

From CNET:

The country’s largest Internet service providers haven’t given up on the idea of becoming copyright cops.

Last July, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other bandwidth providers announced that they had agreed to adopt policies designed to discourage customers from illegally downloading music, movies and software. Since then, the ISPs have been very quiet about their antipiracy measures.

But during a panel discussion before a gathering of U.S. publishers here today, Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said most of the participating ISPs are on track to begin implementing the program by July 1.

Supporters say this could become the most effective antipiracy program ever. Since ISPs are the Internet’s gatekeepers, the theory is that network providers are in the best position to fight illegal file sharing.

That’s OK… we can just switch to another ISP, right?  Oh yeah… I forgot… ISPs have a collective monopoly on high-speed services in most regions of the USA.  In other words — many of us have no alternative ISP to sign up with.  But should you have an another ISP to switch to, don’t hold your breath.  The goal of the content industry (again with White House backing) is to get all ISPs to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the copyright holders and begin cracking down on “suspected” copyright infringement by their paying customers.

Rick Falkvinge has a different view of the copyright industry.  While most people think that they just don’t understand the Internet or how technology has changed, Rick believes they understand exactly what the Internet is and what it means to their totally obsolete business model.  The copyright industry believes that the Internet must be destroyed in order for them to remain even slightly relevant.  By making the ISP’s copyright cops, they’re well on their way to destroying the Internet (at least as we know it).

The US content industry has been working to get three-strike laws installed in many nations with some success — France (HADOPI), UK (Digital Economy Act) and New Zealand are just the first.  Since the entertainment lobby has been unable to get such similar laws passed in the US, they’ve instead enlisted (or forced?) the help of US’s largest ISPs to turn them into “copyright cops.”

So how is this all going to work?

Again from CNET:

. . . .

The program, commonly referred to as “graduated response,” requires that ISPs send out one or two educational notices to those customers who are accused of downloading copyrighted content illegally. If the customer doesn’t stop, the ISP is then asked to send out “confirmation notices” asking that they confirm they have received notice.

At that time, the accused customers will also be informed of the risks they incur if they don’t stop pirating material. If the customer is flagged for pirating again, the ISP can then ratchet up the pressure. Participating ISPs can choose from a list of penalties, or what the RIAA calls “mitigation measures,” which include throttling down the customer’s connection speed and suspending Web access until the subscriber agrees to stop pirating.

(for more detail, see Ars Technica’s Major ISPs agree to “six strikes” copyright enforcement plan

I don’t think this is the type of Internet we want, nor is it something we should accept lying down.  The Internet community rose up in January to kill the Stop Online Piracy & Protect IP Acts — bills that previously seemed all but sure to pass.   I can only hope that the Internet community will respond with just as much vengeance to prevent our network intermediaries (ISPs) from taking on the role of “copyright cops” — something that they are neither competent at or entitled to perform.

Remember — OUR Internet is being stifled by a bloated, outdated and completely obsolete entertainment industry (primarily the RIAA & MPAA).  Piracy is nothing but UNMET CONSUMER DEMAND.  But “serving their customers” has never been NOR will it ever be on the entertainment industry’s agenda.  And why not??? — because they have an obsolete business model to prop up!

More Info:

Is the movie industry really that stupid? (or do they just think we are)

Warner Bros. recently announced a new initiative called “disc-to-digital” to allow consumers to use a variety of methods (e.g., take your discs into stores) to turn their DVDs into digital copies stored in a virtual cloud that they can watch on (studio-approved) Internet-connected devices — for a fee.  And, of course, the files will be digitally protected with UltraViolet, the movie studio’s latest (& useless) digital rights authentication and cloud-based licensing system.  Take a look at Techdirt & ExtraTorrent reviews of Ultraviolet if you haven’t heard of it.

Really???  Are the movie studios, MPAA, etc., really that stupid?  Or do they just think that the consumers are that stupid?  Frankly, I don’t know which is worse.  Either way, the “disc-to-digital” initiative described above is just plain dumb AND stupid!

As for other related news…  every three years the US Copyright Office considers requests for exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prevents breaking or circumventing digital locks (making copying DVDs illegal).  Right now Public Knowledge is fighting for an exemption to allow anyone who lawfully owns a motion picture (including TV shows) on DVD to break the digital lock on that DVD in order to copy the motion picture to another device for noncommercial purposes (i.e., smartphone, iPad, laptop, etc.).  While I wholeheartedly support this effort, I’m not going to hold by breath because the entire movie industry (& friends) are fighting this exemption tooth & nail.

Many people started digitizing their (lawfully purchased) DVD collection almost a decade ago, when DVD Shrink first hit the street in 2003.   Many also accelerated their digitization when the movie industry started taking control of their DVD players, by not allowing users to skip over previews and the increasingly annoying & longer FBI Warnings (in multiple languages, no less), among other irritating features.

Unfortunately, by 2008 the studios had added additional copyright protection features to DVDs that thwarted the use of DVD Shrink, which hadn’t been updated since 2006, and many people switched to other software, such as DVDFab (which also allows conversion to many popular video file formats).  There now must be over a dozen different vendors of updated DVD ripping software.  Here’s a review from one site of the top ten DVD rippers for 2012.

So… for those who desire to build a digital library of their (lawfully purchased) DVD collection, the tools are all there (and have been for some time).  As for Warner Bros. “disc-to-digital” initiative?  Good luck with that.


WWII Archive Film: “The Last Bomb (1945)”

A friend of mine forwarded me this link to B-29 & P-51 WWII footage by the War Department.  It’s around 36 minutes in length, but I found it extremely interesting.  It includes live footage of the 3,000 mile round trip air assault against Japan with 3 bomber wings and a host of P-51s.

Be sure to browse the Internet Archive website as they have a ton of other stuff, including many old B&W sci-fi movies such as “Plan 9 from Outer Space“, “Night of the Living Dead“, “Killers from Space“, and many more.  They also have old TV episodes such as the first episode of the Beverly Hillbillies.  Due to our outrageous copyright laws, many of the television episodes had to substitute different sound tracks (including theme songs) because they couldn’t license the original sound track.


L5 — Crowd-funded science fiction miniseries pilot released

The pilot episode of L5 was released, free to the public, last week.  It’s approx. 27 minutes in length and I thought it was excellent.  Here’s a synopsis directly from the L5 Series home page:

Imagine returning from an exhausting adventure only to find that your home is abandoned, empty. Not just your home, but your neighborhood, your city, in fact, everyone, everywhere, seems to be missing. This is what happens to the crew of the first manned mission to Barnard’s Star – they return after awakening from suspended animation to find that their ship-board AI has sent them on a relativistic tour of the stellar neighborhood while they slumbered, dilating time so severely that nearly 200 years have passed on Earth. After coming to, they discover their vessel is adrift at LaGrange point 5, within visual range of a vast O’neill cylinder-colony. The night side of the Earth shows no lights, and no one answers their calls across all frequencies. They have no choice but to dock with the colony and explore its cavernous interior in the hopes of finding help. When they find the colony to be airless and devoid of life, the remains of human civilization baking in the Sun for decades, their predicament becomes even more dire. Following in the traditions of great legendary hard science fiction, their exploration of this relic of their own civilization will take them on a trans-humanistic and spiritual sojourn.

The pilot episode of L5 can be viewed or downloaded here.

Secrecy News — Great source for CRS analyses & reports!

Secrecy News is a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.  It reports on new developments in government secrecy and provides public access to documentary resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy. It is written by Steven Aftergood.

One of the best resources provided by this blog are the analyses & reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).  CRS is primarily known for “analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan.” Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.  As a taxpayer-funded organization within the Library of Congress, it’s certainly appropriate that ‘taxpayers’ should have access to these analyses and reports.  (We ‘taxpayers’ might as well read these, as it seems fairly apparent that few  – if any – in Congress spend much time reading them)

Here’s just a small sampling of CRS reports over the past few months:

You can subscribe to Secrecy News here.


NightWatch–Great ‘Open Source’ Nightly Intel Newsletter

VERY interesting intel newsletter from KGS that analyzes current international affairs or events affecting US national security interests (and without any of the hype and/or bias that’s present in most all other news sources).

I’ve been reading it for several years and have found it to be not only extremely accurate, but simply one of the best & easily accessible sources of information for non-DOD/non-Intel folks as to “what’s really going on” in Iran, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere throughout the world.

You can either read the nightly reports directly on their website or subscribe to the newsletter via email here:   KGS NightWatch Newsletter

More Guinea Hens…

This past year our guinea hens managed to hatch AND raise 7 baby guineas on their own, of which 5 survived.  What follows are pics from all of 2011 and the last six just after our Feb 2012 snowstorm.  For most of the past 12 years that we’ve had these “strange” martian-like birds, we’ve had to gather up the eggs; hatch them in an incubator; and raise them ourselves until they were old enough to release with the other guineas.  I guess there’s a first time for everything, eh?

Coffee & Copyright Law…

I saw both of these videos last August and meant to post them.   Both were produced by C.G.P. Grey (Grey’s Blog) and they are OUTSTANDING!

Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, I think you’ll enjoy the Coffee video (coffee drinkers will love it!).  Caffeine is one of the most studied drugs ever and there are essentially no health problems for normal people ingesting normal amounts of the stuff.  In less than 4 minutes you’ll know more about coffee & caffeine than you thought possible.

The Copyright video analyzes the copyright laws in the U.S. from the 1700’s up until the modern day (and in less than 6 minutes!). Viewers will quickly realize from this short video the idiocy of such long copyright terms.


3 “MUST-SEE” videos concerning copyright & what’s yet to come…

Yes… last week millions from the Internet opened the door, powerfully if briefly, on the powers that dominate policymaking in Washington, and effectively stopped Hollywood’s latest outrage to address “piracy”—a k a the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).  This isn’t the end, nor is it even “the beginning of the end.”  The copyright war has been going on for over 300 years and it’s not about to end now.  I strongly recommend you watch the following three videos, all by ‘movers & shakers’ in internet technology, for insights into what this “battle” is really about.

The FIRST video (14 minutes) is by Clay ShirkyDefend our Freedom to Share (or why SOPA is a bad idea).  Here’s an excerpt:

So what PIPA and SOPA risk doing is taking a centuries-old legal concept, innocent until proven guilty, and reversing it — guilty until proven innocent. You can’t share until you show us that you’re not sharing something we don’t like. Suddenly, the burden of proof for legal versus illegal falls affirmatively on us and on the services that might be offering us any new capabilities. And if it costs even a dime to police a user, that will crush a service with a hundred million users.

Transcript for video is here (click on “Interactive Transcript”); MP3 audio version is here.

The SECOND video (55 minutes) is a speech given by Cory Doctorow at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress (28C3) titled “The Coming War on General Computation.”  Mike Masnick @ Techdirt has a great writeup on the talk here with video embedded.  Cory Doctorow’s talk is about something much bigger than copyright.  It’s that the copyright fight is merely the canary in the coalmine to this kind of attack on general purpose computing in all sorts of other arenas as well.  And those fights may be much bigger and more difficult than the current copyright fight.

Don’t let the length (55 min) scare you. Cory is a very entertaining speaker.  Transcripts of this talk can be found here.  MP3 audio is here.

The THIRD & last video (20 minutes) is an interview with Lawrence Lessig by Charlie Rose.  Larry Lessig has been intimately involved with intellectual property (IP) & copyright issues for over a decade.  He is the author of many books involving IP, including The Future of Ideas and Free Culture.  His latest book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It, is topic of the interview.  Unlike his previous books, the book outlines what Lessig considers to be the systemic corrupting influence of special-interest money on American politics (e.g., SOPA and PROTECT-IP), and only mentions copyright and other free culture topics briefly, as examples.

MP3 audio file is here.

Enjoy (and learn something, too!)


World War I? Anyone remember? Anyone? Anyone?

Know anything about “The Great War”?  How it started?  Who were the players & current alliances?  Remember the Ottoman Empire?

I’ve been meaning to read the history of WWI for many years but just haven’t gotten around to it.  With the recent movie “War Horse” and a couple of series on PBS that revolve around WWI, my curiosity finally got the best of me.

The book I started reading is “The First World War” by Hew Strachan.  I would have preferred to read “The First World War” by John Keegan, but it is not available in Kindle (or any ebook) format plus it is over a hundred pages longer.  If you search hard enough, you can find a scanned pdf version of John Keegan’s book on the Internet.  Hew Strachan’s WWI book is available in a Kindle version, but I didn’t purchase it from Amazon as their price is 50% greater ($14.99) than their paperback price.  I flat out refuse to pay more for an ebook than it’s cheapest hardcover/paperback price.  Period.  Again… if you search the Internet, you can find a “cheaper” version as I did.

I’m only about 75 pages into Hew Strachan’s WWI history, but so far it’s OK.  Since I remember absolutely nothing from my high school WWI history, it’s all new to me, but I’m not sure I’ll last for 384 pages.

On I also found “The First World War: A Very Short Introduction” by Michael Howard.  The Kindle edition is only $4.98 and this book is only 184 pages in length.  Since Hew Strachan’s book seems to require that the reader have at least a little WWI knowledge (which I don’t), I may switch to reading this short intro first & then go back to Strachan’s WWI overview.

Don’t forget… history always seems to repeat itself.  The more we know about our history, the better we are for it.  (Seriously!)

UPDATE:  I just tried the pdf version of John Keegan’s “The First World War” on my Kindle Keyboard & to my surprise, it’s VERY readable!  I so much prefer Keegan’s writing style & analyses that I’m going to abandon Hew Strachan’s book for now & read this one instead.