Friday, May 29, 2009

Green is the new Black... break out your jackboots.

This is was actually taken from an ad sent to me in an email today:

"Green's the new black…
But not everyone can walk the walk. Don't be that guy. "

I seem to remember one of the defining characteristics of the 80's being the mantra of "Just Say No" and the underlying message that peer-pressure was wrong and something to be resisted.

Nowadays however it seems to me that social pressure has been re-purposed. A decade of Fear is giving way to an atmosphere of being pushy. I find myself on the receiving end of an awful lot of 'priceless advice' these days. Raised eyebrows are usually the response I get when I bother to ask a question.

For example, I regularly get a nasty-gram from an office manager because I will not opt-in for electronic check-stubs and I still have them printed and delivered to me. She is the one who does that delivery. The bi-weekly email includes the imperative "Go Green!".

I asked her which she thought was worse - burning coal to generate electrons to power all the computers in the network every time I access that information for the rest of eternity - or the industrial pollution involved in putting a piece of paper in a file-folder in my file-cabinet.

In reponse to that I get a dirty-look. I have erred twice apparently in that I both asked her to Think about something she didn't care about and exposed the fact that it is only about the convenience of her not having to deliver those stubs to everyone every other week.

Let us be clear - I am not condoning being wasteful of resources. In a society where we have made disposible objects out of materials that last thousands of years and we have done so for decades - radical shifts in policy need to happen.

My problem is that the sorts of changes that are being sold to people are an illusion of control. When you really think things through - like flourescent lights replacing incandescent lights - we find that there are entirely new issues that no one thought through - like the mercury in those lamps that now will end up in all of the landfills.

It seems however that anything that is truly revolutionary is still considered to be "hippy bullshit" even when it is proven to work. Until you can buy it at WalMart, it seems that a large segment of the American public has a huge Blind Spot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reason vs. Zealotry

"All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others." - Douglas Adams

I went to Las Vegas this weekend. The overwhelming wave of mass-stupidity was awe inspiring and not a little nauseating.

Honestly I finally felt like I was backed into a corner. After 8 years of Neocons waging their Culture War I finally snapped. Maybe it was just my elation after discovering the YouTube phenomenon that is Thunderf00t that started the first pebbles rolling - but the unrelenting intellectual maggotry that I endured in the last 96 hours turned them into an avalanche.

I will now share 2 video clips that in my opinion sum up my ideological position to a great degree:

The first is a clip of Barack Obama in 2006. Keep in mind that I disagree a great deal with President Obama's positions on many issues. Furthermore we do not adhere to the same belief system. That is not the point. This is a question of comportment and demeanor.

The second clip is the last in a 10 part series - but I think it stands very well on it's own. It rationally disputes the concepts of Creationism and Intelligent Design in a simple, logical and complete way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Laughed Out Loud ...

I was mining YouTube for entertainment the other night...

This, incidentally, is a phenomenon that is getting all too popular at parties - people share their demented finds and watch as their friends recoil in horror or laugh until they split their sides.

At least 3 times in recent memory I have been to parties where this has happened. Maybe I just need more interesting friends.

But it is interesting that those same people would never think to email me a link, nor even Tweet it. It is the witnessing of your reaction that is the valued moment it would seem.

But all of that aside - I was determined to watch the new Red Dwarf Episodes. And so I did. It was quite the emotional roller-coaster and in the end I loved it.

But then I started poking around and I came across something I find interesting. It is an entire series of short video clips called "Why Do People Laugh at Creationists?" There's 29 parts to the thing! And yet I found myself sitting through each and every one of them and marveling at the eloquent ruthlessness of it.

Now please do not think that I hold an anti-religious viewpoint. I do not. I actually am of the opinion that Religion and Science are nothing at all like mutually exclusive and it constantly amazes me when people get hung up trying to reconcile the two.

I am however a scientist. Perhaps 'engineer' is a better term, since it is the applied sciences, however I prefer the term 'technologist' since what I actually do for a living is to apply technology to solve problems. I would have absolutely nothing to work with if I did not have the fruits of science.

Furthermore I apply the Scientific Method in every aspect of my life, every day. That is to say that I try very hard to learn from my mistakes.

Experiment, Observe, Verify/Negate Theory, Hypothesize, Repeat.

Most life forms follow this simple procedure to eke out knowledge of the world that they live in. This does not preclude them from Loving others, displaying Compassion, and seeking Justice. The two complement each other, rather than negating each other.

What perhaps makes some people uncomfortable is when they unduly influence each other. Using technology to seek Justice for example is a cloudy mixture. At what point does the Power afforded by Scientific research threaten to overwhelm the concepts of Compassion? All too soon, if we are to learn from History.

But on the other hand - people get downright nasty when they appear to conflict. If the Big Bang Theory did not line up with Genesis in a vague sort of way I am certain that it would be pursued with equal venom to that aimed at the work of Charles Darwin.

The interesting point there is that Evolution explains the Diversity of Life, not it's origin. This is usually the sticking point that starts the argument to begin with - a lack of proper understanding.

It is this lack of understanding that causes the conflicts to begin with. The only people who seem to be on the attack against the accepted scientific explanations for our reality are those that not only do not make an effort to learn the science that they are trying to debate, but also display a lack of understanding in how their own acknowledged religion would have them behave in a confrontation.

WWJD? Would he act like the stereotypical nut-job Zealot:
  • Watch Bill O'Reilly and hang on every word - calling people you disagree with 'pinheads'?
  • Tell scientists they don't have the Right to Question 'Biblical Truths'?
  • Use votebots to get anti-creationist videos banned from YouTube?
  • Slander anyone who disagrees with you?
  • Encourage intolerance?
  • Participate in a Culture War?
  • Blow up statues of Buddha with explosives?
  • Bomb abortion clinics?
  • Start a New Era of Crusades?
Or perhaps would he instead pursue the loftier 'egg-headed' goals like:
  • Encourage people to seek the Truth
  • Encourage people to speak the Truth
  • Cure suffering, disease and pandemics
  • Give clean water to those who have none
  • Feed the starving - Finding new ways to grow food
  • Extend everyone's lifespan
  • Be Compassionate and defend the Rights of others to express their opinions, especially when you do not agree with them - but then holding everyone's opinions up to the same scrutiny

Friday, May 15, 2009

Go Pink!

I have had it with all of the ridiculous colors that have been claimed by people with political agendas.

First we had the red ribbon. Then everyone had to have a stupid ribbon color for their own pet cause.

Then thanks to the news network election night graphics we now have colors for political parties. i.e. "Red States" and "Blue States"

Then somewhere along the line we switched from ribbons on the lapel to ribbon magnets on your car and started wearing colored awareness bracelets.

I am acutely 'aware' that this nonsense is annoying the hell out of me.

The latest color to demand attention is "Green". I am commanded over & over to "GO GREEN" - usually requiring me to do something that I have always done in some new way, usually more inconvenient and almost always clever but not very well thought out.

I tried to look up Green on Wikipedia, to try to get my head around the philosophy. But it seems that it is in fact a political agenda with a party to go along with it. Why can't the Libertarians get the bandwagon rolling the way the greeniacs have?

I saw a commercial where a little girl was "teaching her father to be a better man" by making him buy a florescent replacement bulb instead of an incandescent one. Does a "better man" really toss that much mercury into the landfill just so he can light his walkway?

Here is an agenda that you can wrap your head around in a crappy economy:

Go Pink!

EVERYONE is doing it. It works like this - first you complain about how AWFUL the economy is. You complain so much and so endlessly that you convince everyone that you are DOOMED. Then you have every justification in the world to start treating them like crap - because it isn't you - it's the economy that is doing it!

Why Pink? Mr. Pink epitomizes this philosophy! Remember - "I don't tip!"

Don't argue with people about it - "be a professional."

Think about it - he is the ONLY survivor when everything goes bad.

This amounts to ruthless selfishness, which is what the "Me" generation has always been all about. In business this amounts to the aloof procurement of profits and moral ambiguity.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek?

People keep asking me if I have seen the new Star Trek movie.

The answer is No.

I really, honestly, and truly am over it. It is like 'kicking' World of Warcraft. Once you are out - you are all the way out.

I do not see why we need a new Captain Kirk. The old one was fine - and he's dead. Leave him alone.

I truly love the original series. It is insanely great because it is so awful. They accomplished so much with nothing at all but good writing. The acting was bad, the sets were bad, the props were bad and the costumes were a joke - but it inspired generations. Period.

I thought the idea of the Next Generation was a lot better than what the reality of it turned out to be. The problem is that is was successful and that gave them a shooting license to make more. Everything since then has been an exponential curve of crap, with each release getting worse and worse.

I never made it through all of the Deep Sleep 9 episodes. So maybe that is where they lost me. The whole idea of the aliens mapping to racial stereotypes** was taken to a whole new level.

Voyager was a train wreck. They never took on any character of their own and they ended up neutering the Borg in their final episode so - oops they wrote the entire franchise into a corner.

'Enterprise' - I think I might have seen 4 or 5 episodes all the way through. It was just utterly unwatchable and completely formulaic. And why would you try to make a show set earlier in time where everything looks far more futuristic?

The movies are a whole other thing. Sure they figure into the growth of the franchise as well as it's death. But Hollywood has it's own logic and stories that you can get away with on television don't fly on film. As such - the fact that scripts were subjected to the rules of reductionism and the abrasion of focus groups more and more over time is quite obvious.

That the first one got made at all was amazing. It was awful and it was a glimpse into the future of just how bland and banal the Trek franchise might turn out. But it also made money.

So when reality kicked in and they made Wrath of Khan - it was the game changer. Big Money, Big Success, Big Bummer at the end.... that turned into a cliffhanger? Whaaaa? The Search for Spock was the Search for More Money. They were firmly set on that course of the exponential crap curve.

Everything has been an effort to cash-in since then. First Contact was almost good in spite of itself, but it too was guilty of retcon-ing the Borg, the inventor of the Warp Drive, and the worst Star Trek sin since abusing tachyons...

Why does every Star Trek story need some kind of stupid time travel plot?

1. It's a Warp Drive - if you go faster than light - you create paradoxes naturally, right?
Except of course that they never once seemed to mention this.

2. Because technology has gotten better in real life - and it makes the 'future' look ridiculous.

3. Because when you write about the future for 30 years, you end up writing yourself into a corner an awful lot

4. Because staff writers are lazy and can't be bothered even reading the material that their franchise license is based on

5. Because having to watch every Star Trek thing ever made back to back is a full time job that takes a few months - and having bothered to do so is not a job requirement for a staff writer.

6. Because sets are expensive and it is always good for a cheap laugh to have people from the future set in "today" and watch the canned hilarity ensue...

**- Klingon=Russia, Vulcan=Japan, Romulus=China, Bajor=Israel, Cardassia=Germany, bla bla bla, don't remember, don't care...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rotational Medicine

I do not have a primary topic today. I am not linking to an article or cutting & pasting some quote. That formulaic method for writing blog posts is really what led to things like Twitter. Tell the point of your story & not the story. Tell your punchline & not the joke... enough already!

I just want to talk about how we are all led around the nose by people with hidden agendas.

I have talked recently about how the victimization of children is being used to push an agenda that dramatically erodes your privacy.

I think it is likely that parents are targeted for hot-button issues as a swing-vote because they are busy and therefore can not afford to devote enough time to rational analytical thought to parse through the spin-doctoring and see the Bill of Goods they are being sold. Politicos shrink-wrap divisive issues in a way that can be spoon-fed to stressed-out/over-worked/over-protective parents to elicit the appropriate knee-jerk response.

It is a tactic. If you find yourself in this demographic - Be Very Careful.

Let's shift gears and put out a simple statement:

Cars kill more people than cigarettes.

Do we want to talk about carbon monoxide emissions? You know - that stuff we labeled 'second-hand smoke' and pointed fingers at each other about. I am willing to bet that death-toll would put us over the top alone.

But we don't see that as the reason to stop idling your car. No - that is because of greenhouse gas emissions. The hell with you and your cancer. Quit smoking, roll your window up, and don't idle your car.

That's another thing - we are constantly being told what to do for our own good - but in the form of a cop-out. The onus of safety is pushed back on Joe Public as though it's his fault. Take the example of the bank website that originally mandated that you log in with your social security number then later sending you a nasty-gram telling you that you have to make a new account because SS#'s are not a secure data point. It was Their mistake to begin with - but the onus is put on the customer to clean up after it for them. Mind you - if you complained about the boneheaded policy to begin with then you were afforded all of the attention and expertise of your closest brick wall.

Has the constant double-speak of the Bush administration completely numbed us to the ability to tell reality from bullshit? Why does everyone act like the Chinese government these days? It seems like everyone is just trying to make themselves look good, rather than devoting any effort at all in an attempt to be good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gartner vs. Web 2.0

I would love to know what the kickback system is at Gartner and if some eCommerce software vendor paid for this bit of scare-mongering...

We all know that most execs in the Fortune 500 need to justify any decision that costs >$50 with a Gartner report.

Well Gartner just gave Web 2.0 Developers the proverbial Finger.

If you were planning on getting any eCommerce customers to convert to a Web 2.0 experience - you had better make efforts to suppress or discredit this report.

The gist is that companies would see a better return on their investment by spending development dollars on making your web site more easily searchable. That supposedly will lead to more sales.

So - if I am reading this correctly - the same short-term thinking that got us into this deeply dysfunctional economy is now somehow going to get us out of it?

It would seem that Gartner believes that there is no such thing as a competitive advantage to be gained from long-term investments in innovation. So if you're the bandwagon-jumping type - put down the Twitter API's and start digging into the "how to make your web site search-friendly for Google" guide. You're not going to be writing JavaScript this Summer after all - you're going to be scraping the cruft off of URL's.

Monday, May 11, 2009

MySpace is part of "The System"

This is a short rant about privacy.

I am not going to defend sex offenders.

What I AM going to say is this:

There is a federal database of identification. It is populated with anyone who has ever been booked or had to apply for a license of some sort. (Drivers, holders of Gun permits, pyrotechnicians, Notary Publics, etc..)

Fans of CSI will know this as "The System".

The federal government is actively leveraging all centralized social networking sites to augment the contents of "The System." That means that every time you post your friend's picture on Facebook you are registering them with law enforcement.

If you do not believe me, have a look at what happened with MySpace in February.

Again - I am NOT defending Sex offenders. But you need to consider this carefully. This is an edge case. It should not be used as a foot-in-the-door or grease for the slippery slope.

I noticed a similar exception case that was used by border patrol agents claiming the legal right to view the contents of someone's hard drive when entering the country - based on child pornography charges.

My point is this - once the Authorities have any reason to violate your privacy - they will inevitably behave as though they have the Right to do so as a blanket policy.

But then again - what reasonable right to privacy can you claim - if you maintain a MySpace or FaceBook account?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hyping the Cloud Fantastic

If Buzz-words are the coin of the realm in the IT industry then licenses to print money with clouds on it are being handed out to tech writers with their morning crumpets.

I would like to juxtapose two different links:

Cloud computing is for the birds - an article about how SaaS is too expensive for small businesses to use. Essentially a Cloud-debunker.

The Stages of Change - an article written about the history of teaching the New Math in schools

Really - just the bullet points on the first page make the point.

It all really just comes down to where we are on the Hype-Cycle graph now doesn't it?

M$ Talks to a New Generation

I take a lot of pot shots at Steve Ballmer. He is an easy target and there is plenty of material out there to draw from. He recently spoke at Stanford to the Entrepreneur forum. This is perhaps the most eloquently that I have ever heard him speak, so I thought that I would draw attention to it in the spirit of fairness.

I will let you draw your own opinion.

Regardless of how well he comes across - the substance is really what counts. There is enough to take exception to within.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Never Agree to Hold Someone's Jacket...

The Pirate Bay has fallen. It was a spectacular trial with all kinds of interesting arguments thrown back and forth, including Perry Mason-style antics with surprise witnesses and lawyers getting chewed out by the judge for pulling them.

But in the end - the truly miserable part is WHY they all got a year in prison and a fine that maybe three people I have ever met could ever possibly pay :

"responsibility for assistance can strike someone who has only insignificantly assisted in the principal crime"

Prosecutor HÃ¥kan Roswall cited in his closing arguments a Supreme Court of Sweden opinion that a person holding the jacket of someone committing battery can be held responsible for the battery. - Wikipedia

This is a very tenuous claim to justify a Scorch the Earth policy of law enforcement. Everyone was found guilty of being an accessory to the 'crime' of copyright infringement. Mind you - there are no charges against anyone for those actual crimes. So it's a lot like buying a case with no iPhone to put in it just so that all of your friends who have them think that you have one too.

Why did I put the word 'crime' in quotes? Because copyright infringement IMHO is something that is more applicable to be dealt with in civil court. Having corporate sponsored raids on internet sharing facilities sounds a LOT like selective enforcement to me.

If I wrote a song and some local band was playing it in a bar - can I call in the cops to raid the place? How about if you plagiarize something that I have written?

What if a record company stole a song that I wrote, had someone else record it & released the album - do I get to call a raid on their CD-duplication factory?

And there it is - ONLY corporations get any kind of justice department backing for their copyright infringements. That is highly suspect and puts the public in a position where the ONLY power that they can claim is by doing something illegal.

It comes down to this - the record companies & movie studios only wanted to sell us their products on round pieces of plastic. So we - the technical people - figured out how to put that on a wire when they refused to consider it. Now that we can do it for free - they want to charge for it. The ONLY value that they can add is that "you're not going to be arrested/sued/fined".

As for stealing from the artists? The distribution companies robbed them blind to get their content to begin with. You can't steal from someone who has been mugged already.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In The News...

Here are just a few weird things of note that I want to rant about but just don't have the time:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trent Reznor vs. Apple

I enjoy music by the band Nine Inch Nails. I downloaded their iPhone app because I have tickets to an upcoming show & using that app is an interesting way to connect with the rest of the tour.

It seems that Apple rejected a recent update to the NIN iPhone application.

I like what Trent has to say about it & his rationale I believe is well thought out. NIN is one of the few bands that does not self-censor in an effort to placate the likes of Wal-Mart. I think that is to be respected. Apple should not be the self-appointed guardian of Moral Culture any more than Bill O'Reilly should be.

I find it interesting that international law forbids the practice of targetting culture. That covers religion, art and charity. For example, the Taliban destruction of ancient Buddhist statues.

So - in my mind - anyone who sets out as a "Culture Warrior" is intentionally thumbing their nose at international law and the tenets of peace. I think that even qualifies as "crimminal".