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I’m Back. I’m Bad. He’s…

… Well, that quote from Lethal Weapon numero dos doesn’t really work in this context but the sentiment is what counts. I am back. It was a delay I wasn’t really expecting and one that I’d hoped would end sooner.

Basically, it came down to an unexpectedly heavy workload, combined with the holidays and some other commitments. The hope is to get back on track with two or three postings a week.

First though, I’m going to try and organize things a bit better. I’d like to key in on specific topics and comment on those regularly as opposed to the scattershot method to the madness that are my post currently.

So, expect one or two more posts this week and hopefully something more organized in the week or two to come.

 

It’s a Harry Potter Christmas!

For the first time in a long, long while my wife and I won’t be traveling for the holidays. In the past we’ve gone to visit our families in one state or another, but this year due to various circumstances (not enough available time off, work commitments, etc.) we’re staying home. This is both a disappointment and a relief.

The original plan was this year was to visit my in-laws for the holidays. I like my in-laws. They know how to have a good time, if you catch my drift (Well, let’s put it this way, my wife’s step-father, who hails from Poland originally, makes a delightful little concoction called Krupnik, made from grain alcohol, honey and a honey liqueur. Trust me, it will woo you with its sweet honey and clover flavor and then punish you with its 120 proof (my estimate) burn.). So, needless to say, it will be disappointment not seeing them.

On the other hand, traveling, either by car or plane, is a hassle. It doesn’t matter which we choose. The entire process takes about nine hours one way so not traveling is a relief.

So, with Christmas being a family holiday and us not having any family here in California and all of our friends spending time with their families we decided to make the best of it. My wife learned that the final Harry Potter movie , The Deathly Hallows Part II, comes out this spring and Part I is in theaters now. We’ve never seen or read a Harry Potter movie or novel and knowing that the last of them is coming out my wife wants to see them.

I went out and got the Blu-ray versions of the six previous movies, we’re going to start tonight and watch a couple between now and Sunday and then go see The Deathly Hallows Part I before it’s gone from theaters.

It’s actually quite odd. I feel like I know everything about this series because it’s been this part of the cultural zeitgeist for so long now, but at the same time I know nothing. And to be frank, I wasn’t all that interested in either reading the series or seeing the movies before but once my wife suggested it I was like: Yes, that. It just seemed like a fun way to spend the holiday with nothing much else to do. A weekend of care free, mindless, fantastical fun.

So, while you’re dealing with your crazy Aunt Zelda this weekend, I’ll be relaxing at home with good food, my awesome wife, some wine and Harry Potter. Sounds like a magical Christmas to me.

FCC Passes Watered Down Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC is getting in on the party. They passed rules regarding net neutrality this past week as well. The vote was 3-2 in favor of keeping internet service providers from discriminating against content providers by creating a tiered internet.

This vote doesn’t provide the same protection for wireless services though (so you could potentially see additionally tiering for your smart phones data plan for example.) and as a result, some advocates say the rules don’t go far enough to protect consumers and content providers.

There’s something I don’t understand here: in the 3-2 vote it was three Democrats for adopting the rules and two Republicans against. I just don’t get how pro-business Republicans could, without the lobbyists bending their ear sideways, be against net neutrality. Honestly, has there been anything that has spurred corporate and economic growth more than an open internet in the last twenty years?

I really doubt that a computer would be in every household without the internet. And think of the businesses, the huge businesses, that exist or have become larger because of the internet. Google. HP. Dell. ebay. Microsoft. Amazon. Facebook. Netflix. All of these were created (in full or in part.) and continue to exist because of an open internet. You allow tiers to exist and the internet becomes a place where innovation ceases because small companies with great ideas have no avenue to grow.

So, Republican politicians, please note, a closed internet is anti-business. Stop listening to lobbyists. Stop listening to Hollywood and the music industry and let businesses thrive and innovation to occur.

Oh, and to the FCC, more rules allowing for an open internet (even for wireless providers) please.

 

UPDATE: Engadget has posted the response of the various carriers to the new net neutrality rules, here.

Our Government In Action

Up until the last couple of weeks this post would have been titled, “Our Government Inaction,” because that’s what it’s seemed to be over the last two years or so. But over the last two weeks our legislative branch has seemingly gotten underway and have, you know, started legislating.

What I want to know is what took them so long? Especially the Democrats. Two years of total and complete authority and the only thing to get passed was a watered down version of the health care bill and financial reform that, based on what I’m seeing on Wall Street, hasn’t really reformed all that much. What’s the point of having a majority in the House and Senate and control of the White House if you don’t use it?

And then, finally, some movement. I guess the incumbents need their backs against the wall to get something done.

It started a couple of weeks ago when President Obama struck a deal with the Republicans and got both the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits extended. The first for two years and the second for eighteen months. I’m not a big fan of this deal. Of course I’m glad that unemployment benefits got extended for those who need them, but I’m really disappointed that Obama and the other Dems didn’t hold to their principals and let the tax cuts expire. (and just FYI, my wife and I would have been impacted by the cuts expiring and we were willing to pay the extra taxes.).

Of course, this only happened after the Republicans decided to hold the extension of unemployment benefits hostage until the tax cuts were allowed to continue. It’s like the Republicans are becoming spoiled children who hold their breath until their parents give them what they want. Apparently, the Democrats are the parents who just can’t say no; at least not for long.

In the last few days the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has passed and been signed into law. Again, I’m wondering what took so long. I think it should go without saying that if someone wants to die for this country they should be able to do it without hiding who they are. It’s amazing to me that if someone said, “blacks shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military,” people would look at that person as if they were an abomination to all that’s right and good (And rightfully so, because that way of thinking needs to go the way of carrier pigeons and Oldsmobile.) but replace the word “black” with “gay” and it seems like that’s OK to say in public.

Now, today, just moments ago in fact, the bill that will provide health care to 9/11 first responders has passed a hurdle in the Senate. The bill that will go up in front of the Senate and Congress has been reduced by $2 billion dollars to $4.2 billion over ten years to take care of health benefits and compensation for first responders whose health was compromised by toxic dust that permeated the sites of the 9/11 attacks. It looks like the vote will happen by tomorrow before Congress ends its latest session.

It also looks like the START Treaty may get passed. It only took a briefing in a closed-door session to convince a few of the Senators to stop dragging their feet in supporting it. Again, I don’t understand the foot-dragging and breath-holding by the Republicans. This treaty is supported by the military, as evidenced by the letter Admiral Mullen sent to the Senate, every living Republican former Secretary of State supports it and their argument holding it up, that we won’t be able to defend ourselves with 1,550 nuclear missiles, is well, just crazy, since that is more than enough weaponry to destroy civilization as we know it.

Now, the only hope is that when Congress reconvenes in 2011 that the desire to compromise and keep getting things done continues.

Be Humble!

Hey, it’s the holidays, if you want to do some good out there and get a little something for yourself in the process I urge you to check out the Humble Bundle 2.

A bunch of independent game developers got together, have bundled their software and are selling it with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. The catch?  You get to decide how much you want to pay for the bundle and what percentage goes to charity. That’s right, you can pay less than a buck or one million dollars (cue Dr. Evil voice on that last bit.). And you want it all to go to charity? Sure thing, go right ahead (But honestly, these developers need a little love too and we want to make sure we get a Humble Bundle 3, so take care of them.).

And the charities are pretty worthwhile too. They are: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play. The EFF is a non-profit that fights to protect our digital rights, whether it’s from Digital Rights Management or online censorship. Child’s Play is a charity that delivers toys and games to sick children at over sixty hospitals around the world. Don’t like one or the other? Well, you can decide which one (or if both) get all or a percentage of your donation.

The games? Take a look:

I’ve purchased the Humble Bundle both this year and last. I already owned a few of the games offered this year and I still purchased it. Why? The other three games looked great and because I get to decide what I wanted to pay I didn’t feel like I was paying for the same games twice.  The games I already had, Braid and Osmos… fantastic. One of the others, Machinarium, the developer participated last year and their game was a beautiful and interesting entry called Samorost 2. If the others are half as good it’s money well spent.

So, if you want to do some good, support independent game development and get some great games, check it out. And if you’re here and you’re not a gamer check it out anyway. They have an option where you can receive a gift code to give someone you know who does love games.

Tis the Season… For Catalogs

When the holiday season rolls around I expect to get a few more catalogs. They seem to run from the moderately useful (If I was desperate for a gift for someone and didn’t know how to use the internet or get to a mall.). These include places like Harry and David and the desperate Christmas shopper’s final stop: Brookstone.

And then there are the absolutely ridiculous ones. I’m talking about the stuff that no one ever buys. Or someone does, because these places still seem to be in business year after year. I just don’t know anyone who does buy from them. At least I’ve never met anyone who admitted to a purchase from one. Like The Lillian Vernon Catalog… Really? Does anyone need a toilet roll holder that congratulates you on a job well done?

Or the ones with ludicrously expensive junk. Or better yet, the ones that combine the two in some odd synergistic confluence of crap. We received one of these yesterday. The Scully & Scully catalog. I’d never heard of them before, but man, there’s some insane stuff in there.

Here, let me show you:

Meissen Porcelain Monkey Orchestra
All yours for just $14,883 (not including shipping and handling.)

That’s right, if you read the caption above, this beautiful set of monkeys playing instruments can be yours for only $14,883 not including shipping and handling. Oh, and that’s only if you buy one music stand to go with the conductor. That a little too much for you? Well, each monkey is actually sold individually. Let’s start with the cheapest of the lot to start our collection (not including the music stand.). That would be the triangle playing monkey. How much, you ask? Only $1750.

What is that? More than two weeks salary for most people for a triangle playing monkey? Totally worth it right? I mean, if you’re pulling down about 46 grand a year in this economy why not splurge on a simian virtuoso for yourself or a loved one. You’d be stupid not to…

What, still don’t believe me? OK, here’s the rest of that picture with the accompanying prices:

Pricing for Our Primate Concerto and Friends

Check out those prices!

I wasn’t kidding. Are there really that many millionaires that have nothing better to do with their money than buy this? This!?! I know this is America and we buy some useless and pointless stuff. I myself am guilty of buying some really stupid things. God knows I didn’t need the Fallout 3 Deluxe Edition with lunchbox and Fallout Boy bobble head… but that was $90 and I got a game that I played for almost 100 hours.

I don’t even know why we got their catalog. My wife and I may earn a pretty good living, but certainly not in the range to have the disposable income required for this level of stupidity.

So that only leaves me with one question… it’s almost a riddle really. Who’s smart enough to earn the money required for purchasing this, but stupid enough to actually buy it? Have an answer? Please let me know.

Things that Don’t Mix: Fish, Microwaves and the Office

Dear Co-worker:

I don’t know who you are, but I can certainly smell your lunch. At least I hope it’s your lunch.

I’m sure that you really love fish. We have that in common. Me? I really like a nice salmon fillet pan-seared in a little extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with some salt and pepper and with a squeeze of lemon. It’s delicious. It really is.

Or maybe your wife, girlfriend, mom, whichever, it really doesn’t matter, wanted to make sure all the left-overs were cleaned out of the fridge. That’s great. I hate to see food go to waste. But here’s the thing; re-heated fish really stinks. Especially when reheated in the microwave.

If I could I’d track you down and tell you in person but, unfortunately, now the whole floor smells like your lunch so I’m not sure where to start. I don’t have the time to walk aimlessly around looking for you and it’s quite possible you could be done by the time I would’ve found you. So instead I’m writing this. I’m hoping, if I’m lucky, you’re one of my three regular visitors to this blog. Probably not.

Well, anyway, please stop eating reheated fish for lunch. Honestly, we’d all really appreciate it.

Oh, and if that smell isn’t your lunch I apologize for all the above. I’d also like to recommend you make a doctor’s appointment.

Thanks.

Your Friend and Colleague,

EA


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