Sunday, December 27, 2009

Islam, that religion of "Peace"

Ever since 9/11 the portrayals of Islam as a "religion of peace" have bothered me. Anyone who has studied Islam at all both historically and in its various modern forms will know that the statement is simply untrue. When politicians parrot it they are either ignorant, are attempting to "bring out the best" in the Islamic community, or they do understand how devastating Islam can be and are attempting to pacify them. Islam has one goal: to dominate and subjugate the entire world under its rule and under Allah. You will either convert, will become subjugated, or you will die. It's that simple.

An excellent documentary on the subject is the movie "Islam: What the West Needs to Know". (Netflix, Amazon, also on Google Video). This should be required viewing in our schools - yet I fear that we are too "sensitive" and politically correct to take such a step.

Sharia law is the legal framework that Islamic people are ruled by. While in historic times it was praised for being much more fair and just than other legal systems - and is even an antecedent and inspiration for common law and our own constitution - we Americans would never wish to live under such a system.

It always befuddles me that liberal and well-educated Americans decry honest denouncement of Islam as being politically incorrect. They refuse to allow honest discussion about Islam. Yet, they simply do not understand what would happen to them should they fall under Sharia law.

For example:

  • The 16 year old girl executed in Iran for not being chaste (in the public square, no less).
  • On a Muslim woman with a Christian husband: Divorce him.
  • Is it not convenient that the Prophet said that anyone who criticizes the Prophet should be killed? You do know the penalty for blasphemy? So much for your "First Amendment" protection. So much for freedom of speech.
  • In Indonesia you can be stoned for adultery (Note the date of that article - Sept of '09, not 1509. That's today. Now. Want that in America?)
  • If a child is born of Muslim parents, it is not permissible for him to leave Islam.
  • Honor killings of women/daughters by husbands and fathers.
  • Update: Stinks to be a Sikh in Muslim/Taliban controlled areas. Pay jizia or lose your property.
Make no mistake - this is an on-going and high stakes war. Islam is almost as old as Christianity and claims a pedigree that predates it to the time of Abraham. Today it is very active. Even now as you are reading this apologists and strategists are promoting their agenda in a variety of ways. Their spokesmen release statements whenever a "Muslim" does some violent or atrocious act by denouncing any suggestion that the act was in the name of Islam as bigoted or racist. There are websites dedicated to educate and push back such as

Americans like to think of religion as a personal decision - as something that each individual believes and observes. Islam is not a personal religion. It is a corporate system of governance and permeates every aspect of life. If a cleric issues a "fatwa" it is considered binding. We think of the "dark ages" when the Roman Catholic Church was powerful and was able to dictate even the laws and actions of civil leaders. In our own country we joke about the abusive and controlling church leadership who tried to make this country a "theocracy". That is the goal of Islamic clerics - you will be required to obey and to live under their control.

Am I being overly critical? Research what happens in countries that are tightly controlled by Islamic leadership - countries that are filled with a strong majority of Muslims. Look at Indonesia and African countries. Read the very well-written book Infidel; this will give a personal account of how women are treated even today in these countries.

If "Islam is a religion of peace" is true - if all of these violent acts and abuses are not in line with Islam, then what is the harm is strongly denouncing them? Why would Islamic clerics not join with civic leadership and help to bring those who do stuff like "honor killings" to justice and see them serve strong prison sentences. If these actions are not in line with Islam, they should be denounced loudly and strongly. The reality is, however, they are not. We would do wise to fully understand the foundation, history, and current manifestations of Islam before it is too late. This is not being a bigot. This is not racist. This is not an anti-liberal stance - it is not an ignorant stance. It is a wise and educated and very realistic assessment of the situation that we are facing. If we value our American ideals of individual freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness; if the experiment in our country means anything to us and to this world, we would do wise not only to ensure that we continue to be true to our roots of freedom, but that we defend ourselves against the invasion of Islam. We successfully fought against Nazi and Communist Soviet Union threats; this is no less of a threat we now find ourselves faced with.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Men in Funny Dresses...raping children

Every now and again I find a link to yet another program, article or what not about the scandal - I'd say atrocity - of priests raping children. This video is about a year old from this time and done by the BBC's program Panorama.

Every time I encounter one of these I get mad - really mad. I have a son who is of an age that were we good, devout Catholics would be of a prime age for abuse. That makes me doubly mad.

Anyone who is still a Roman Catholic needs to seriously investigate for themselves this scandal and the policies that enabled it. This is real. It's serious. It has not been resolved. It will continue. The men in funny dresses that swing smoking censors around while chanting in an ancient, dead language are dangerous. They are dangerous to our intelligence and they are dangerous to our children. They should be considered as such and treated with extreme caution. Those who are noble have nothing to worry about in having this attention; those who have skeletons in their proverbial closets should fear. I suspect, however, that the relationship of the noble to the sinister is far imbalanced toward the sinister.

More Resources:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sony updates Playstation's policy.

I received an automated email from Sony. Everything Sony does has a sort of flippant flair to it. This one does not disappoint. It seems they've updated their privacy policy and would like we users to know about it. That's nice enough; the part that's especially "precious" is this paragraph:

If you do not agree with the new Privacy Policy, please contact
Customer Service to terminate your PlayStation(R)Network account(s)
and do not visit our websites. Continued use of your PlayStation(R)Network
accounts or any SCEA website means you agree to the new policy.

Basically, if you don't agree with it, F off. Sweet. Maybe they should send out their updated policy on memory sticks?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No "botax" - A tan tax?

In a move that will surely send a shudder of terror to high school girls across the country our fearless [baz]zar of health Harry Reid has removed the so-called "botax" and replaced it with a tax on tanning. Yes, you heard right - to pay for this monstrosity of a health "reform" bill our Robin Hood warriors have decided that highschool girls who tan will now shell out 10% of their bill to pay for his.

He had originally proposed a 5% tax on cosmetic surgery procedures; the medical community proved to be a formidable opponent to that. He now is picking on the tanning industry who doubtless have any strong forces in the ready to swoop onto Washington.

For my part I find this shriekingly stupid on several fronts. First - tax on tanning? WTF? Second, I absolutely hate how government looks through the economy to find defenseless industries that they can slap with a new tax. Tax on gas. Some have proposed a tax on driving in general. Tax on "bad" food. Is there no end to this insanity? [answer: no]

Oh - my bad. Think of the children. They're simply trying to make sure that kids have health care. What kind of a mutant Neanderthal am I?

Monday, December 07, 2009

A View into Economic Realities

Lest anyone think that the meltdown over junk mortgages and other factors was not real, there are examples very near to my house. Take, for example, a subdivision that never quite made it out of the starting gate. This project has sat dormant for the past couple of years - enough time for pine trees to reach about 3 feet high in some places. The grass is like a nice wheat field and when I walk through the area I can hear the scurrying of mice and what not in the grass.

It always makes me a little sad when I see it. There are 4 model homes partially completed. They long ago removed the office trailer though the railing is still there. The houses are framed, have windows and roofs and look like they would have been nice homes for someone. There just were to be no "someones" who could have bought them due to the economic timing; they now sit lonely as a reminder that this economic downturn is all too real.

What is the story? I'm not sure. Was this a small eager developer who got caught over leveraged and is now out of business? A large developer who decided to cut their losses? (Probably, given how large the development was.) This represents loss of work and income for countless craftsmen, truck drivers, real-estate agents, and vendors who sell the parts that make a house a home.

See the photo album here.
Field of Dreams...shattered

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Australian Scientology in Hot Water

I suppose a pragmatic argument can be made that many types of religion serve a positive and practical purpose in society (though, see). Scientology is not among those qualifying for such a defense. After wielding the power of intimidation against the press for some many years, the past couple of years have seen more willingness by many to speak out against the abuses by the church. The latest are comments and an article in Australia.

In France they have been convicted of fraud and brought within a sight of being stripped of their church status. Literally from Scientology's doorstep The St. Petersburg Times has done an expose series on various aspects of the "church" (an excellent read).

ABC Nightline has done a two part series into David M and the church. (See Tom Cruise receiving an award. Is it just me or does he look genuinely insane? If not that, completely deluded.)

In part one of the Nightline series there was a very interesting comment by one of the former members that the church has the power over eternity. Where have we heard this before being used to control members? In fact all the brands of Christianity and Islam hold eternity over the heads of members, either implicitly or explicitly. Growing up in the Adventist Church I lived with the constant threat of being stricken from the Book of Life. The terror of seeing that day when Jesus comes in the clouds to receive his own, and watching all my family rise into the sky to meet Him while I watched from the ground laced my every decision. With Catholicism and many types of Protestantism the fear of eternity suffering in the flames of hell is the hammer to drive people into the particular direction that churches and leaders want their "flock" to go. Guilt over the suffering of Christ is also used, especially in recruiting help for some goal. Mel Gibson's movie drove a spike in returning people to religion and motivating them to prosthelytize the lost.

Talk of Scientology always brings up the question for me, "What is a religion?". We protect the religious freedoms of people in this country; as a necessary side effect to reach this goal, we provide a protecting bubble around religions. They receive tax exception and first amendment protection for what they say as part of their religion. Scientology receives this same protections in this and other countries. Why? Because they declared themselves a religion? Because they have unprovable history and metaphysics? Because they evangelize and claim to provide help and healing for people? Because they call themselves a "church"?

In fact, in my mind they are no church and they are dangerous. Yet as I denounce their right to be labeled and protected as a "religion" I am well aware that other religious groups and sects also could come under the same scrutiny; who would survive an inquest into the efficacies of their teaching, history, practices and prophecies?

At about -5:50 into the second ABC Nightline video the Scientology spokesman avoids the interview questions on Scientology's theology and teaching by hiding in a cloak of church secrecy and spiritual sensitivity. When asked questions about Xenu, volcanos and teachings by L. Ron Hubbard their official spokesperson refuses to answer the questions as "offensive" (always a good hiding place. Love this guy.) and inappropriate. He denounced what we commonly find on the Internet as vulgar misrepresentations. He refuted them but was unwilling to offer clarification to what we find described on the Internet. What religion does this? Why would anyone want to join a religion that refuses to honestly disclose its own teaching? In the end he rips off his microphone and walks out of the interview as he promised. (My response? What an ass.)

Scientology is dangerous. It is not a church. It needs to be exposed now before it modifies its tactics and becomes more mainstream and acceptable (see Mormonism and Seventh-day Adventist). It needs to be stripped of protections before time itself protects it. Some guy goes out into the desert and invents a religion by declaring that an angel visited him and dictated a holy book. It's crazy, but through force of intimidation and military prowess it eventually (with time) establishes itself as one of the "Great Religions". A thousand years later a guy sticks his head into a hat and an angel helps translate a lost holy book and now and entire state of our nation is identified with this religion. If Scientology is allowed to continue, 100 years from now will we be calling it one of our "Great Religions"?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dead man...walking?

I found this story of the Brazilian man who attended his own funeral intriguing. He "died" in a car crash and the next day the family held a funeral for him. Problem was, he didn't get the memo that he was supposed to be dead and strolled into his funeral.

I'm sure that's not the first time that this situation happened. What I found intriguing was this quote:
The sight of Ademir Jorge Goncalves alive shocked relatives, some of whom tried to jump out of the windows of the funeral home in southern Brazil.
I don't doubt that seeing him alive was shocking. It's the ones who tried to jump out of the window that is strange. The dissonance between what they believed to be true - based on vague or second hand evidence - and what they could actually see was true was too much for them to handle. Since many in these Latin, Catholic-infused, countries believe in spirits and ghosts the combination of "facts" drove them to a faulty and weird conclusion: The dead man's ghost had just strolled into the room.

Was it the emotion of the situation that caused the panic and confusion? Was it the religious soaked culture that virtually "saw" ghosts and spirits in every shadow? Was it simply a normal reaction? I imagine that I also would have been very confused at my Grandfather's funeral had he strolled into the room during the service. Yet why would we not immediately believe our own eyes and search for a reasonable explanation?

Carl Sagan addressed this in Demon Haunted World. Our minds are so easily fooled that even solid facts are at first rejected in favor of our long-held beliefs. In this case, the man who attended his own funeral had not been in the car that crashed - someone else was in the car. Lacking the advanced testing capabilities of dental records or DNA I don't suggest that they were wrong to conclude that he was the driver - especially since he was nowhere to be found. Yet, deciding to jump out of a window when he walked into the room is a ridiculous response; I doubt this response would have happened if the culture did not believe in ghosts and spirits of the dead.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Netflix returns my game - woot!

I had been watching a movie from Netflix. I hadn't realized that my son had taken it out of the PS3 and popped in one of his games. The next morning I ejected the "movie" and slipped it into the Netflix sleeve and sent it back. Later I noticed the movie that I had though I returned and the realization that I'd just returned a game sunk in. Oh no.

On their site Netflix says that they'll simply automatically return personal CD/DVDs if they are mistakenly sent in. Sure enough, a couple of days later I got an email about it and the next day a envelop with my game in it.

Kudos to Netflix. Now to return their movie.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kudos, this time, to AT&T

I inadvertently left the international calling plan on my account from my last trip to Germany - last year. I had previously seen the item on my bill, but since it had "iphone" in it I assumed that it was just the iPhone charge. With my recent upgrade to the new iPhone the data plan is now is a different amount. Hmm, so what was this $25?

Yup, this was the international calling plan for the iPhone, Brook confirmed. After researching when it was added and that it was not being used she went ahead and credited 10 months of charges for me. Nice - they didn't have to do that. Normally, she informed, they only go back 3 months. She was polite, she was quick, and she gave me money. Sound perfect to me!

Kudos (this time) go to AT&T.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Velvet Assassin - meh

I just finished playing through Velvet Assassin. Some games I go through again after completing it, either in a harder setting or to just make sure I've achieved all the "dings". Not this one - once through is quite enough. In fact, I'd recommend skipping it all together. It seriously was not worth the full retail price, and I doubt I'd recommend picking it up for 29.99. The game play is shallow and redundant. There are simply too few variations. It's all sneak and kill interspersed with an ample dose of try, die, retry cycles. The stealth mode is inconsistent with the soldiers often walking right by you without detecting you, while other times they see you from far off. There's very little that Velvet can do if she is detected in most situations except run, try to blast away, or simply lay down and die.

If there was a redeeming aspect to the game it is the reminder that war sucks and the insanity that was Hitler's Nazi's was a blemish on history that, like the blood that was spilled, will not soon wash out. Visually the game is dark and sinister at times - oh, and Velvet running around in next to nada is ok, for about the first millisecond.

Probably better than this game is to rent Schindler's List and Defiance to be reminded of the history a bit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Your game doesn't own my PC

I just bought Velvet Assassin. It didn't get particularly high marks by the pundits, but it's supposed to be similar to another game I enjoyed, Splinter Cell. What drives me crazy is that no where does it say that this is a "steam" game. OMG I absolutely hate games that use Steam. It installs a client that wants to run all the time, and they expect you to activate and try games through their online connection. The installer forced me to create a Steam account before I could continue. I tried to cancel, but it simply cancels the who installation. Really funny thing is that "abcd1234", "abcde12345" were already taken. Guess there are others who aren't too keen about this stupid roadblock to game-play.

I've always hated these types of "services" because they are so transparent in their attempt to suck you into their online world and sell you more crap. We'll see how this one works out and how easily I can disable it. What I hate is that even though I exit Steam, launching the game relaunches it.

Update: So far I'm underwhelmed by this game. Very limited attack moves, very repetitive "levels" and my left pinky is sore from having to sneak by holding down the Ctrl button. There's not even a toggle for "crouch" like some games - you have to hold the Ctrl button down to sneak while using your other fingers to control movement. There is a configuration to enable toggle. The engine is not as good as what the "Clancy" games use, especially not like Splinter Cell. There are no frontal attacks that I can find. If she gets seen she's usually dead.

So far I give this a 4/10. The scenery is good, though mostly dark. It's basically a grayscale game, but some of it looks cool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

iPhone Revolution; why I endure AT&T a bit longer

There's a great write-up analyzing both the iPhone/Apple haters and what Apple has done with the iPhone to cause a revolution in the cell phone space. We've all seen the haters - "Yay me, I'm da man cause I chucked my iPhone out and am doing something radical - going against the current. I'm a non-conformist... I'm a... (moron?)." Many of the public haters have a vested interest; something to gain by being the contrarian.

I've had my issues with my iPhone. My last one had a bum touchscreen that finally stopped responding to my loving touches about 75% up the screen. There was this dead band. Thing was, it was sort of a fun challenge to still get things done. I also hated how long it took to sync it, and the earphone jack got stuck again. I also think there was simply a hardware issue with my first generation Intel based iMac. (I've had no issues that I can see paired with my MacBook Pro.)

Mostly I had issues with AT&T - OMG they were so brain-dead as a corporate structure it still boggles my mind. They were a petri dish for a MBA class on what not to do. I was so turned off after ordering my new iPhone (and never getting it) that I was motivated to go back and reevaluate what I'd do phone-wise. I looked at several of the new phones including the new Pre. (It didn't look bad, but my Palm OS horror stories are even longer than iPhone ones). In the end I note that many of the newer phones are much better now that the iPhone has kicked sand on everyone. The presence of the iPhone has been force in the market that has so disrupted the landscape that it has scared everyone into looking at this space differently.

This has been great for customers - for us. As this entry from 2006 suggested, Apple has "the ability has the ability to disrupt the entire distribution channel, which is currently controlled by cellular service providers." I think it has, and I think it will continue.

In the meantime, I simply could not find an iPhone replacement that did as well as the iPhone. I'm not thrilled about AT&T; as disorganized as they are, they treated me much better than Verizon did when I had issues with my Trio. (Verizon never solved the problem of dropped inbound calls, and persisted in suggesting that I was making up the issue to get a new phone. My Trio was new. I left. A tin can and string would be preferable.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Mac OS X Application

I've really liked what Apple has done with the Mac and their OS X. It looks great, works well, and has become very productive. I've liked it so well that I now have 3 Macs - an older PowerBook, a first-generation iMac, and now a MacBook Pro.

I figured it was time to play with developing applications on OS X. So I've downloaded the Xcode 3.1 environment, bought a Dummies book (@grantbob - shhh!) and started playing. I first downloaded the latest Xcode but it turns out that it requires Snow Leopard to run and I've not yet received my copy.

The approach to developing applications is wildly different than Microsoft's with
their Developer Studio tools and .Net. Microsoft's tools are much more straight-forward - creating the proverbial "Hello World" application is trivial while it was a little more involved in Xcode

The dance between Xcode and Interface Builder will take some getting used to, but the tools appear to be very good. They are complex and present a steep learning curve. It would be tricky for new programmer to simply download the Xcode and creating a hello world in a single unaided session. However, the Xcode application also comes with templates and with what appears to be a very complete tutorial and online book.

What impresses me is the emphasis on modularity and object orientation. This emphasis is part of the learning curve; in the long run, however, it probably presents a good discipline that allows for large and complex programs that are more modular than some C++ programs are on Windows.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blackberry Bold? Or overpriced brick?

I had an opportunity to play with the Blackberry Bold today. There's a new corporate AT&T store near my house. Since I'm a glutton for punishment I wandered into it today to take a look-see. In a word, I was not all that impressed with this flagship smart phone.

The phone was big - bigger than my 1st generation iPhone. It was both wider and thicker. It did weigh less though, but that's because it feels, well, cheap. I've seen Blackberry's hit the floor a number of times. Battery, body and battery door all bounce in different directions making a very gratifying "crash!". Owners simply put them back together, turn them on, and go on with life.

Speaking of a crash - the very nice girl that helped me crashed the phone trying to show me something on the browser. We locked it up good and could not get it unstuck. She finally popped it open and took out the battery. It took several minutes after she reassembled it until we were able to use it again. As she said, Blackberry's take the longest of any of their phones to turn on, and I believe it. It was horrible. This little hourglass kept flashing - and after it came up we had to go through the initialization questions again.

It did have a very nice screen - she showed me an "HD" movie and it looked very nice. And the little phone has one heck of a set of speakers on it. She turned it up and let's just say you'd make a scene in your local coffee shop.

Email and text-oriented stuff like dialing and the contacts list were excellent. As a phone I think it would work exceedingly well; as an email client it is legendary. As an iPhone replacement, however, I'm worried that it will leave me disappointed. I'd need to play with it more in the real world - unfortunately, I suspect they'll not lend me one to play with for a week. Test drives have not yet made it to the telecommunications industry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pandora Broken on my OS X?

Pandora is one of those site and applications that runs pretty much anytime I'm awake. I have been running it from my MacBook Pro; this morning I tried to launch it and the site is dead to me. The frame of the Pandora site is up and Flash is loaded but the "movie" is not running. Looks like something on my Mac is hosed and Flash or Pandora is misbehaving.

I upgraded my Flash and Air, but Pandora still is dead. I even tried the typical reboots, clear cache, logged out of Pandora One and back in - nothing seems to work. All the 3rd party Pandora applications also do not work.

Strange thing, it is broken for both the Safari and Firefox 3.5 browsers, so it appears to be a Flash issue. At this point I'm finding nothing about it at all and no way to troubleshoot it. Sux.


Update: I found the direct link from the Pandora site to their desktop application that is written on top of Adobe AIR. That downloaded and runs just fine. I had intended to install it anyway since it runs outside a browser.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Maybe I should have done this about AT&T

"Lala - AT&T screws up orders and can't fix problems... lala..."

er, um. naw

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AT&T follies, part (lost track)

After having no luck actually speaking to a human, I decided to try my hand at AT&T's "Contact Us" from the web site. In the very limited space I attempted to give the abbreviated description of my issue. They reply:

I have reviewed your account and find the credit was issued to your account on 08/11/09 in the amount of $322.92 for the iphone that was sent back by store. I see that you have already contacted customer service regarding this credit, and your concerns have been resolved.

To recap Mr. Forrester, you have already called customer service and a credit was issued and your concerns resolved. I hope the information has been helpful and resolved all your issues. Thank you for being a loyal customer of AT&T we appreciate your business and look forward to serving you for many years to come. Once again my name is Jewell [name blanked] and if you have additional questions about this issue please reply to this email. If you have a new inquiry or future inquiry, please log back into your My Wireless Account and submit a new email correspondence request.
Nice try. Guess that looks good on the statistics when a support manager's telling his or her boss what a great job they're doing. Unfortunately (for me), I've still not received a credit from AT&T. No Jewell, this issue is far from resolved. I responded to her email with a recap of my own. I'm not optimistic.

Update: I'm happy to report that on 8/13 a credit hit my bank. No iPhone yet - probably won't be one for now...

Monday, August 10, 2009

AT&T: Issue resolved (not!)

I got a nice text message last Friday from AT&T that stated "Issue resolved". Hmm, wonder what that means. I don't have a shiny new iPhone, I don't have a credit back to my bank account, and I've not gotten any calls about resolution from anyone. Nice game, guys.


I spoke with AT&T again today to find out what "resolved" means. In fact, I'm (by chance) speaking with the exact same person I spoke with last week. She has no idea what's going on, and after 2 minutes reviewing my account, is asking me the same questions she asked me last week. Wow. Just wow... Where'd you buy the phone. Did you speak with the store? Which phone did you purchase? They didn't notify you?

Funny thing is, once again the AT&T person attempts to contact the store, but they didn't answer. "Hello?" Is anyone piloting this ship?

My best guess at this point is that they have no idea what's going on, and their business systems and procedures do not allow and enable them to actually resolve my issue. They texted me because I was very insistent that if I did not hear back from them last week I was going to file a dispute claim with my bank and claim fraud. (I have - oh, I'm sure AT&T are shaking in their proverbial boots over the power of the little guy to ruin their day...not.)

Epic Fail.

Friday, August 07, 2009

AT&T Follies part 2

Well, after talking to Customer Service two days ago I discovered that calling the AT&T 800 number simply connected me to a person who knew less than I did and had less access to information than even me. They couldn't see my transaction, could not see that my phone had been sent back, and had no way to verify that I had been sent any email. They could see nothing that the store did. Sort of makes sense; sort of.

They promised to have the store resolve this and call me by yesterday 8pm. They didn't (as expected). Today I get a nice call from Monica who's job it is to be pleasant and grandmotherly to angry people like me. We vent, they apologize, they call their manager they call back and say "Good news, I've gotten your credit expedited. It will be credited by the 14th". What? This is the 7th. Wow - by then the 30 day automatic credit for the returned phone would have almost kicked in. Thanks for nothing.

This is truly ridiculous. Apple has so messed up their stores that you have to stand in lines outside the store just to talk to a "specialist" to buy, well, it seems, anything now. I guess I could go stand in line for my iPhone replacement and then wait forever while they provision it. I was hoping that the AT&T store would be able to perform the task quicker. Silly me.

What's really stupid is that no one at AT&T seems to really want to sell me an F'ing iPhone. Do they really hate Apple that much? In all these conversations no one has said, "Congratulations - just stop by the store and they'll give you your new iPhone that you've already paid for." Instead they seem to want to give me my money back...eventually, after waiting for a really long, long time. Like one of my co-workers just mused, sounds like they just don't want you as a customer.

Sounds like it.
Update 8/7: Just got a text from AT&T saying my issue is "resolved". As yet, I'm not sure what this means. No credit processed and visible on my online bank. We'll see what's there tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I love cell phone companies (and other lies)

Yes, yet another massive screw up by a cell phone company. Surprised? You must be still in the cell phone honeymoon stage on your first phone. You'll see soon enough.

I've had horror stories with T-Mobile, with what used to be Bell South Mobility, and with Verizon. I'm working my way through AT&T currently and setting my sights on the next candidate for totally screwing up something for me.

The current situation: I ordered my new iPhone about a month ago. Good thing - recently my original iPhone has lost part of the touch screen. It's a band toward the top that prevents dialing, prevents selecting the first items in lists, and places off limits any icons in the 2nd row. A Google search finds that many have encountered this; not much to do.

Anyway, July 9th I ordered my new phone. I received an email confirming the purchase; this email indicated that I would receive another email when the phone shipped in an estimated couple of weeks. That was my last email. After unsuccessfully trying to contact the store by phone I decided to fight traffic and head back into the store today. "Sorry sir, your phone was in the store for 7 days and then shipped back."

What? Good grief! as Charlie Brown would declare. I got charged $322 anyway, thank you very much. I never received an email or call. I double checked. Nope.

Here's the great part. I'm at home on with customer service and they find no record of the purchase, the $322 charge, of a sent-back phone - nothing. Pleasant.

I am troubled by the trend I've seen in recent years. Businesses have gathered an ever greater density of customers; they've never found a way to support those customers in any way resembling the service that one would have received "in the old days" from your (say) local neighborhood proprietor. Businesses have all the earmarks of big Government. They draft a playbook for mass sales, yet have no pages for actually supporting those sales. They pump up the volume of new customers then struggle to supply the technological bandwidth to even sustain them; customer service is caught in the middle trying to answer questions, cool tempers, and find some way to achieve a positive outcome. I feel for them; I think they give up, are poorly trained, and too often just could care less.

When the guy who sold me a phone which they sent back can not give me a refund, but instead has to wait for the 30 day period to some computer can automatically issue me a credit - that's a breakdown of the system. It's a piss poor design of the business process. When I can't then call the national customer service and get any results - when they themselves can't even see the transaction since it was from a "core store", that's just crazy.

I can tell more stories about these big telecommunication companies; other people can relate more stories, and even worse ones. I can switch - it's jumping from one cauldron into another. It's switching from the terrible Republicans to the terrible Democrats. I may actually receive a call from a manager - hell, it might even be a VP like when Verizon couldn't figure out why my phone failed to receive phone calls without first dropping them for 3 months. Did the VP solve my problem? Naw. He just sounded "nicer" when he apologized for my pain and anguish, but offered no solution.

It's the big cell phone company today. Might be an insurance company tomorrow not wanting to pay for the stitches in my thumb. Satellite TV and cable companies. Internet providers. Power and gas companies. There are so many of these huge institutions that control many of the specifies of our lives; we don't live in America any more. We live in AT&T, DirecTV, Blue Cross, City Bank land now. I pity the control freaks out there; they're powerless to attain any level of true control beyond simply not using the many products and services from these companies. Hard to do in todays technological society.

...god how I miss my rotary phone and old TV. Not getting a good signal? Move the rabbit ears. Don't like the program? Twist the channel knob. Nothing good on? See that volume button? Push it.

...ah, that's better...hmm, do I really need a phone?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wonder where my new Mac Pro is made?

Doesn't surprise me...much. I ordered a Mac Pro laptop. It's on a FedEx plane. Not from Cupertino - I was pretty sure Steve didn't assemble it in the Apple headquarters' garage. I didn't, however, expect it to be drop-shipped direct from Shanghai. Interesting world we live in now...

Aug 4, 2009 11:33 AM
Left FedEx origin facility

Update: My son thinks this is so cool. I said, "It's on a plane from China." He replies "Even as we speak?" Even as we speak, I affirm. "Wow, that's so cool. I love when you say 'Even as we speak' - it's so current."

Interesting world...

Monday, August 03, 2009

National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

When my son was born there was a discussion between his mother and I about "do we or don't we" immunize. She in particular had been impacted by the propaganda from the alternative crowd of the horrors of immunization. Yes, the discussion of autism came up, even back then. Our pediatrician at the time did give her a little flier on the subject, but was pretty exhasperated with her, and actually got very "snippy" with her on it. That didn't help. Fortunately, today there is an even greater and easier access to good information.

In the end I felt that the evidence was clear - there was no evidence supporting a link to autism, and the positives greatly outweighed the potential negatives, especially with the extremely low odds for negative side effects. We immunized fully.

I have never regretted this; I regret, however, that there are still those who are still suspicious and stubborn and who have been "poisoned" by the irrational thinking of the pseudo-scientific businesses. Fortunately, there is alternative information about this alternative thinking. I understand the emotions of the issue; I also understand the emotions of those who's children have contracted a preventable disease because a group of parents are too stupid to educate themselves; are too suspicious to trust those who know best; have been indoctrinated by people who have products to sell that will only sell if people stop trusting those with the best knowledge and start to believe the vacuous claims of these alternative medicine companies.

It was a tough question; however, as one who grew up seeing the very real effects of polio on my father's generation, I fully understand how real these epidemics were - and can be once again. Jenny can chant "Green our Vaccine" - it is green. It has been made even greener as a precaution. It's safe and the evidence is there to support that. Stop with the false claims and nonsense and listen to the evidence. Let this be the month of education...of awareness.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dara O'Briain

He's pretty funny. NSFW (generally - he's Irish with a good command of the language)

For example, he's pretty much figured out the best diet plan.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer Summit; Diplomacy at its best

As promised, the President and VP sat down with Gates and Crowley over a beer to talk out the details of the racially charged incident the week before. I'm not naive enough to believe that this was, as the President stated, just a few guys sitting down at the end of the day having beers. Each had their own motives for being there, and politics and image was probably shared by more than one of them. Gates did have a Sam Adams and Crowley a Blue Moon - I believe those are motivation enough to drop by for a beer :)

I'm glad it happened, however. I think it should be the model for solving other problems, especially racially charged ones. Biden had a Buckler, which is non-alcoholic; it's not the social lubricant of the alcohol that is the key, it's the "regular guys having a beer" that seems to be the key ingredient. It seems to infer equality in a normal, non-threatening friendly situation. It's hard to be really angry with a guy who's popped open a beer and with whom you "clink" bottles with.

This is not to suggest that this one conversation solved all the tensions between these men; they talked, they listened and they came away with a different perspective.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Powell Weighs In (and right well)

See, this is why I really wanted Powell to run for president. He's just so level headed and fair, and a sharp thinker. Guess that's why he's not bothered running for president :)

Anyway he offers his insights into the situation by pointing out where both Gates and the officer could have done better. He also wisely points out that Gates was tired from his trip. I'm a bear when I'm tired after traveling.

I'm still waiting to see how Beer Diplomocy works out. If it goes well, maybe we should try it with Iran and North Korea? (um, might not be the best approach with Iran I guess?)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gates: "Time to move on"

I agree with Gates when he suggests it's time to move on. Everyone's said their piece, made their points, and (hopefully) learned something about race relations in America.

Lesson: Listen and ask questions first. Would have saved Obama from stepping in the poo.

Lesson: Humility and humor can defuse any situation, quickly. Gates would never have ruffled the officer's feathers if he'd simply have laughed off the situation and right away offered to show ID. We all forget keys, locks jam, doo-doo happens. Explain it, laugh, and move on.

Lesson: Some people can be grumpy and indignant, especially when they've returned from long trips. Patience, and a calm attitude seem like an officer's best friends (which Officer Crowley appears to have demonstrated). And when an angry person (any person, black, white, or martian) is demanding your name and badge number, give it to them. If they want to stomp off and make a fool of themselves, no worries.

Lesson: The Internet has changed everything. Government officials can not abuse power (as much) these days without it showing up on the Internet and going viral. People have high definition cameras in their phones, which are Internet connected. We can "live blog" an abusive situation in seconds. Racist cops (I'm sure they exist) will star in their own career impacting show on YouTube.

Lesson: The Internet has changed everything. Be polite. Never know when someone will put that video of "that jerk" on YouTube and everyone can see what a child you are.

Lesson: Delicate one - many of us white people are are tired of being called "racists" by misbehaving and immature people of other races. We work hard and most of us believe in treating everyone with dignity. However, we also are human and react when we are confronted with a 'tude. Chill. Even if some of us have developed a bit of an attitude about "Blacks" there has been a reason. We observe. We learn. We have experiences. It's not the media that has "programmed" me into thinking that drivers who are talking on cell-phones have dropped 50 IQ points and are Mobile Idiots. It's experience. Yet, be patient with us. I believe that most of us really do want to get along better with people who are not like us.

Lesson: Delicate one - if you are Black, there is a history and a struggle that none of us White Folk can ever understand. You have a much harder situation than we do. I can be rude occassionally, mostly with no wide impact. When you are rude people (wrongly) say "Gosh, Black peole are rude." Again - wrong. It happens. You need to be careful of your actions in public since you represent your brothers and sisters in a cause. Think of yourself as a very important ambassador. Gates was a terrible ambassador for both his color and for Americans. Fair disclosure: I'm often a terrible ambassador for my color and for Americans. I'm working it out, you should too.

Lesson: Obama has nailed it 100%. Let's all have a beer and talk it out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gates arrested; Obama complains

Let me see if I've got this straight - a man breaks into a house. Police arrive and want to know what's up with that. Fact is, it is a black man. In Chicago.* Fact is police tend to take an interest when anyone is seen breaking into a house.

But that's not the part that Obama is calling "stupid". No, it's the fact that the police arrested this man who just broke into a house. From the reported story, it sounds like Gates initially refused to show ID, and got a little defensive with police, accusing them of being "racist".

Again, let me review the facts. (Arrest report here. It's insightful.) A man breaks into a house and is seen - not sure by whom. Police are called. They show up and confront the person they find in the house. Now think about it: How are they to know that this person is the owner of the house and lives there. The only evidence that they have is that this guy was reported having broken into this house. Owners don't generally do that.

Yes, we've all forgotten our keys and had to resort to extreme measures. But if you've just broken into your own house, you know - you know - that you've just done something that could look suspicious. If the police show up, a little humility and humor would go a long way. "Yes officer, I just had to break into my own house. Forgot my keys." And then the next part would be crucial to defusing the situation: "Here, let me grab my wallet and show you my ID that has my address and my picture on it."

The police would have seen his picture, checked the address. They would have seen the sheepish, borderline embarrassed look of a person who's just gotten caught doing something very human, and the whole thing would have been over. "Thanks for coming out, officer." It doesn't sound like this is what Gates did. Instead, this personal friend to the president and Harvard scholar thought that the police should have simply believed him with deference and left - by following proper police procedure which they would have done for any color man Gates retorted was that the officer was a racist.

CNN is running their "Black in America". Guess what. Being black in America means that you have to live by the same rules and endure the same discomforts that the rest of us do. That includes the requirement to be humble and compliant when police confront you after you break into a house.

Final observation: Had this man who broke into Gate's house not been Henry Louis Gates Jr., scholar and owner of this house -- had it instead been a white guy coming to steal his TV, and had police come out and simply taken his word that this was his house. What then would Obama had said? Would the police still have been accused of "racism" for leaving the white guy there? Would they (properly) have been called "stupid" for having not followed proper police procedure and allowing a thief to run free in Gate's house? Of course. Fact is, the police had to insist that Gate show them identification to prove that he lived and owned that house because that was police procedure. They need proof that this was not an illegal situation.

If you actually read the arrest report it is very obvious that the police officer was ambushed and immediately "race baited" by a belligerent Gates. I've seen this. I've experienced this. Gates acted arrogantly and improperly. He deserved to be arrested. Obama, by defending him, deserves to be criticized. While there are many examples of racial inequity in America, this is not one of them. Instead this is simply bad behavior by an arrogant Harvard scholar who thought he was above the law and should be treated with deference due to his connections and position. Were this a white guy doing the same to a black man the outcry would be deafening.

Update: Cosby aka, used to be funny weighs in. BTW, He makes a lot of sense, though his "defense" of the President speculates too much.
Update: Whitehouse to People: Er, what The President meant was...
Update 7/24: HuffPo covers it. It's surprising to Obama that this is exploding like this. Naw, ya stepped in it dude, er, Mr. President Dude, Sir.
Update: CNN Editorial: She gives good insights drawn from both her experience and academic background into the situation law enforcement finds themselves in.

I imagine Obama was, as reported, very surprised at the reaction. He never imagined that we'd react to his reaction in the way we have. And here I thought it was usually the V.P. that steps in poo.

*(I actually tried to find crime statistics by race. I found crime statistics. A Crime Risk Index was illuminating, showing how much above the national average many of the categories of crimes were, including robbery. I also found a breakdown of the Chicago crime by many factors (I'm sure Boston stats could be found too). Race was not one of them. It seems that some feel that the collection and publishing of crime statistics by race is a form of racism. I would disagree. Facts are facts. If the common racist misconception that black men commit a disproportionate amount is crime is wrong, publish the data proving this.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stunning video

This video on Vimeo is very cool - very well done, creative and has a touching story line. Definately watch it through to the conclusion.

Large drives; larger problems

Computer drives are getting cheaper for more; in fact you can buy a 1 terrabyte drive for about the same cost of a night at the movies. It's easy to simply add files without thinking since there is so much space. I find myself wondering where all that space has gone.

I've been using FolderSizes to manage my various disks and really like it. This one is a commercial product - I tried some of the freebies and this case you seem to get what you pay for. The Pro is $50 and the personal version $25. Personally I've found it well worth the cost.

The main feature that I like is its most direct - it shows you how much crap you have in your folders, organized by size. This is where I find the most surprises when I first scan a drive. It's when I remember "temporarily" backing up all those files to that folder that I forgot to remove when done.
The Pro version can be used to monitor network drives and include handy features like scheduling to scan drives during off-time. A nice feature is that when you find a folder that has files of interest, you can delete them right from the FolderSizes interface; I don't usually do it this way because it wants to move the files to the recycle bin (there might be a way to change that - haven't looked.) But what's nice is you can also pop up a windows explorer window with a right click menu.

It might be trivial, but one of the best features about it is that it feels and looks professional. It is quick, does stuff in the background has a nice layout and nice set of features and is stable. Some of the free ones felt clunkie, crashed and were slow. This one looks like a great software package written by a single programmer, but done well.

Update: Ok, not a single developer working out his garage any more. Seems business is good and according to Mark Richards the chief nerd they now employ a number of developers to work their magic.

Swedes fund solar panels

Seems a government sponsored program to pay for up to 60% of the investment cost of installing solar panels is more then twice as popular as they projected. Wonder what would happen here if, say Georgia, funded the same?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OMG R we this dum?

Say it ain't so, we just can't be this (um) uninformed, can we? I'm moving to Ugoslavia...

I demand a fence be built for our safety


er, maybe not...

Saturday, June 13, 2009 is

I really don't pay attention to the SDA question anymore, as should be obvious by my silence. I just finally got tired of the ranting and endless debate on unsolvable questions. It's like arguing about what color Unicorns are, or what their favorite foods are.

It seems that the site "Ellen White Exposed" has changed its domain name from to I'm sure the Ellen White foundation badgered them until they simply decided to change the name.

I'm going through the site and auditing the links. If there is a dead link or an incorrect one, drop me a note or simply comment on the blog posting and I'll fix it. Also, if I've made any factual errors - or if you simply disagree with my conclusions :) let me know too. If you post with your true identity I'll probably publish the comment; if anonymous I'll just fix the error.

Friday, May 01, 2009

OMG - H1N1 Flu just a state of mind?

So I was over at The Loom catching up on my blogs after an exhausting week. Carl freaked out over this article. Thought I (naively) - "How bad could it be?" After all, often peeps tend to hyperventilate over stuff they simply don't agree with. This is no such case.

There are, occasionally, articles that border on the criminal. This is such a case. That there could be a person who reads that article and decides not to take any precaution other than filling her mind with positive thoughts just seems inconceivable (to borrow from Princess Bride). Fortunately there is little danger, at least at this point, of wide-spread exposure to a dangerous flu strain. It appears currently to be a somewhat annoying but fairly harmless strain of flu - at least when compared to other flu strains. Yet, this could change. And this [censored myself] person is spreading lies.

Lies. Then there is the kooky. Drug cartels? We're talking about flu here, Marianne. Yes, the cartels are dangerous too but their airborne virus's usually come out of the point of a gun and are generally aimed at specific hosts. ...oh my...

Can we try to "pray" people like this away? Or may I modify her #2 point? Can we just send her to Mexico?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NEAP Testing and states

Having a son in 4th grade I think a bit about the quality of education. Blake just had the standardized testing that all 4th graders must endure. The "No Child Left Behind" law has had an impact, but the jury is still out as to whether or not it's going to be a positive one.

This chart shows some interesting results comparing between the NEAP and states ranking of students. Not a good omen for Georgia. The article it was linked from is a bit dated but also not encouraging. I'm hoping not to discover how badly my son was educated 10 years from now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Banned from Facebook? aka, New Virtual World Order

Gosh! Who'd have ever thought that Libby would be the sort that Facebook would determine was worthy of banishment. In fact, however, this is exactly what has happened. A simple Google search will turn up a number of such events - many of whom had no idea that they were even under a "terms of service" (Like Libby) let alone what those terms actually are.

This brings a thought to my mind. We live in a very very different world. Most of us are used to living in a country where we have rights, legal recourse, and the ability to protest something. Be it ever so minuscule, we have power. On the web, however, this is not the case. We now live in a virtual world where the rules and actions are governed by corporate self-interest, and where you - that single person among millions of other "users" - is of little value to the corporation. They do as they wish to protect whatever they wish to protect.

Less you think I'm whining about some corporate conspiracy think again. I've almost always come down on the side of a business to create a product and attach whatever strings to its use they'd like. Even in situations like this I still tend to lean toward that position. Yet we as people need to understand how tentative our situation is. Should Google decide, your blog will disappear forever and there is nothing that you can do to recover it or your good name. Google/YouTube have banned even the Marvelous James Randi's account with no warning. Fortunately he has the power of his stature in the Skeptical community and resources beyond you and I as individuals. RIAA, YouTube, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft. These are the new House of Representatives and Senate in the new virtual country that we live in. User be warned: The technology and communication channel that you have come to depend on and even earn your living with can disappear in an instant, and there is very little you can do beyond sending an email petitioning the decision...and waiting....and waiting.........and waiting.

You are the gentleman sitting in the lobby with hat in hand nervously waiting to find out if you will be seen today, or need to come back tomorrow and wait...and wait...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Video on "Open Mindedness"

This video is very well put together and very clearly articulates the difference between truly being open minded (but sentient) and having a mind into which just any idea can fall and sprout into idiocy.

Update: Link to the video producer on YouTube

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Laws of physics

Laws of physics in action outside my office. It's not a great picture - iPhone drive by, but it looks like yet again two cars decided to test the laws of physics and enjoyed the resulting collision. On the far side there were two cars, one onto the curb. Not sure if the two collided or if one ran the other out, but it looked like someone got hurt. People are 'tards at this intersection. First they get desperate to get thru it at any cost, and second they always assume that a person is turning if they are coming from one of the sides. Whenever I go straight I simply drive through the intersection laying on my horn.

Update: There seems to be a bad accident at that intersection every couple of weeks. Peeps are retarded there. Just this week there was a 3-car physics experiment with one up in a flower bed and another in the center median (I guess that's a redundancy...).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wall Street Journal 50% increase in rates

It took a crazy "ninja" increase in their online subscription to motivate me to post a blog entry (after being lazy for some time), but when I saw a charge for $150 on my online bank statement from the Wall Street Journal online subscription I was seriously miffed. It was bad enough that a year or so ago they raised it to $99/year without telling us [though it could be that a letter - that looked like junk mail - did arrive]. This ninja increase of 50% is crazy. I could understand if I had the print version. This involves hard costs of print and distribution. And I understand that there are real costs associated with producing an online journal. But when the online is almost the same price as the print? Crazy.

The economy is in seriously bad shape, and companies are watching their bottom line fade like so much disappearing ink. They are looking for more sources of revenue and finding none, so they are simply raising rates. Our local country water just did this. There is a bad drought here in Georgia and we are all under severe water restrictions. Add to that the fact that many of us are really working hard to be good citizens and are doing a variety of things to reduce our water consumption. This translates into a dramatic reduction in revenue. The solution? Dramatically raise the cost of water. Crazy.

I can't cancel my subscription to the county water supply. I can, however, cancel my subscription to, which is exactly what I did. I'm sure I can find something better to do with that $150.