Sunday, January 17, 2010

You are being watched

Back for my bi-annual post. Now that I have a computer that was made after 2001, there's at least an outside chance that I will actually write something more than every six months (NOTE: for the 4 of you that read my last blog about macs and PCs, we ended up getting a PC. I guess we can't tweet from Starbucks now while listening to Cobra Starship on our ipods...oh well)

On to today's incoherent rant...

I was at a party the other day, and while I'm not certain the exact context, and for the purposes of this, they're not really important, but the subject of Google's street maps came up. I don't think I really need to explain them because, well, if you're reading my blog, in all likelihood, you're aware of them and have seen them before and have looked up everywhere you've ever lived when you didn't feel like working. Here's something I didn't know,* did you know that the government paid Google to do that?

It gets deeper than that. If you own a GPS, the government knows where you are at all times, EVEN IF YOU TURN IT OFF. It's true.**

Even more, I'm sure you've seen the video about how someone high up in the corporate ladder on Facebook has roots in the Department of Defense.

The clear implication in all of this if you listen to those who give a lot of lip service to all of this stuff is that, the government is VERY interested in what you're doing and has a very sophisticated infrastructure in place to see everything you're doing, who you associate with, where you're going and how you're getting there.

That's some scary stuff right? It's also a CROCK OF SHIT!

Anytime you get into a conversation with somebody and they tell you that something innocuous is actually funded by the federal government, I'll tell you how to stop them in their tracks; ask them why.

My theory is a simple one. For a long time now (15-20 years now,) first through the internet and the alt.whatever.whatever newsgroups, then the World Wide Web and people using the web to express themselves, first through geocities pages, then through friendster, myspace, facebook and now twitter, now everyone has a voice that can be heard anywhere in the world. While I think we can all agree that it's definitely a great thing that these technologies exist and that by and large most people bring a lot of interesting ideas to the table, I think we can also agree that there are a lot of crazies in the stew too (if you don't believe me, check out the "Rants and Raves section of your local Craig's list site sometime.)

With this technology, people have come to the conclusion that since everyone in the world can see what you're up to, if you choose to put yourself out there, everyone in the world really cares what you're doing on a daily basis. More than that, chances are, the Government has to be terribly interested in what you're doing.

I tell you this...If in fact the government is in fact reading this, and there is somebody in a cubicle somewhere whose entire job is to keep tabs on me -- all I have to say is, well, I'm sorry. If your job is to keep an eye on my life, you've probably bored yourself to death by now...and you've also noticed that while I do enjoy fast food, I only end up at Jack in the Box when I'm really drunk(and if you ever see my car at Del Taco, it means someone stole it.) And I'm guessing that as exciting as whatever you do with you life is, the poor bastard whose job it is to keep an eye on you is really wishing that they had finished their degree in art history so they could be a bartender at a hipster bar that serves tallboys of PBR.

Let's look at the Google maps thing, the GPS thing, and the facebook thing with just a drop of logic.

Google Maps
Apparently the government wanted to map all of the streets in America, Google was doing it for their maps feature so they threw Google a little bit of cash for the information. Seems easy enough, yes? It's also absolutely ponitless and unnecessary. If the Government was sending the CIA to some random house in Topeka, Kansas, don't you think that they'd, oh I don't know, coordinate with local law enforcement who you know knows EXACTLY what that house looks like, rather than counting on a camera phone quality image of the neighborhood from 2 years ago?

Suppose, for a minute, that through GPS systems, the government could see where you were and where you went and all of that fun stuff. There's something else that GPS systems fast you're going, and also the posted speed limits for where you are. If ther WERE watching, don't you think that if the Government had even the slightest ability to track GPS activity, they'd just automatically mail you a ticket every time your GPS reported the speed as being 15 MPH over the posted limit? Shit, they'd be able to pay off the national debt in 2 weeks!

Without going in to too many details, but if the government is really using facebook to keep tabs on us, with the amount of drivel that is on facebook, they'd be more successful if they just went through the phone book and arbitrarily arrested 2 people out of it every day.

Look, I was a freshman in college once too. I know that the man is keeping you down, and it's all part of some big elaborate scheme to make sure that everybody falls in line and so that the corporations in their corporate towers can be all corporate and make money, and that there's nothing you can do about it because if you do the government will snuff you out right away....except for one thing. They won't. And for some people, the idea that nobody cares to watch you is scarier than the idea that everyone is.

* - the reason I didn't know this is because it's probably bullshit.
**- It probably isn't...but who cares?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm a mac. I'm here to liberate you from your money.

i told you in my first entry, one of the gifts that i would give you, free of charge, is extended stretches of time with no new articles. well the last time i wrote was before thanksgiving, so promise kept on my end (i did write something about barry bonds, but it was lousy, so i never published it...maybe when there are a b sides and rarites from my blog it will be in there..)

actually, as you guessed, i'm here to - wait for it - sort of kind of in a way defend microsoft. well maybe no so much defend microsoft as much as try and knock apple down a couple of pegs, but still.

when i was on hold on the phone at my desk this morning, i was flipping through the news feed on my facebook page (oh yeah, i'm on facebook now too) and one of the article teasers that came up was from huffington post, talking about how apple recently asked microsoft to stop running those ads where people go into a big box electronics store, and get to keep a laptop if they can find one they want under $1000.00. there's more to the story than that for sure, apple DID lower their prices a little bit so some of the claims are a tad exaggerated, but it's not like everyone doesn't exaggerate things in advertising. the point is, if the advertising didn't work, apple wouldn't have cared, so i guess it struck a nerve. personally, i'm kind of surprised it took this long for the pc market to not hit apple on the price thing because after growing up a pc boy and spending the last 2 years of my professional career on a mac, and after grazing in a lot of apple stores while my fiancee is in banana republic, i think i can safely say that while macs are fine machines, kind of like starbucks coffee, american apparel shirts, and pretty much anything purchased at crate and barrel, you're definitely paying as much for the brand as you're paying for the product itself. (NOTE - if you're a musician and use the computer to write and record music, this article is NOT directed at you, for that specific genre, macs are far superior and are pretty much the industry standard)

to further my point, i thought it would be helpful to look at some of apple's favorite talking points and explore them a little bit....

1. apples do not get viruses.

by itself, i think we can all agree that a computer that doesn't get viruses is a good thing, but if you listen to justin long (and really, who doesn't?,) you wouldn't be out of line to think that the reason that macs doesn't get viruses has something to do with the computers themselves. you'd be wrong. the biggest reason that macs get less viruses (and to be clear, macs do get viruses, the big ones just don't make cnn) has nothing to do with how macs are programmed or wired or any of that and has everything to do with one simple concept - market share. on their best day, macs make up 9-10 percent of all of the computers being used. now pretend you are the kind of person who wants to go to the effort to write, test and distribute a virus. why in the world would you go to all of that trouble to infect, in the best case of best case of best case scenarios, one in 10 people who use a computer (and even THAT is pushing it - when has a computer virus ever affected 100 % of users?)

2. macs don't crash

to put it simply. yes they do. i work on a mac every day. i've lost files i've been working on because "the application photoshop quit unexpectedly," and just like windows, if you're lucky, you're welcome to send them an error report that will be ignored. it's not really a huge deal, then again, it's not like any pc i've used has ever crashed in a manner that i would determine to be regularly. computers lock up from time to time -- even the hardcore linux fanboy probably gets the occasional lockup. the people who tell you that macs don't crash are the same ones who only use it to surf the web, use microsoft word and tweet about how their latte is to hot while sitting in the starbucks, and it's awfully hard to crash a computer when all you do with it is surf the web, tweet and write word documents, which leads me to...

3. macs just work

allow me to pull out my mac-shill to engligh dictionary and see what comes out - it's working...working...working...ahhh - something just popped up on the screen:"it just works"
apparently loosely translates to "i cannot give you a single substantial reason that this computer i just paid 1800 dollars for even though it only has about 1200 dollars worth of components in it was worth the extra money, but since you asked me why i bought a mac i don't want to just stare blankly at you and i remember reading 'it just works' on a poster in the apple store." boyyyyyy to mac users like to prattle about how their computers just work. you know what else just works? my coffee pot. you won't hear me telling everyone about how my coffee pot just works though (yes - i realize i did in fact tell you that my coffee pot just works - but i digress.) fact of the matter is, the stuff on the inside of a mac is probably made at the same factory in taiwan that makes the stuff on the inside of most PCs, and yes, the components of a mac do in fact eventually stop working, and when they do, you'd be better off owning a pc. in my case, the logic board on my work computer (only 2 years old by the way) is slowly dying, so if i turn it off, when i turn it back on, for the first hour of the day, it will shut down every 20 minutes or so. now if it were a pc, i'd just go to a computer store, put a new motherboard in it and be on my way about 150 bucks lighter. now go back to my mac -- our it guy confirmed it was the logic board and that fixing it would be $450.00, unless i want to buy a board on ebay (and it's ALWAYS risky buying computer components on the secondary market for a multitude of reasons) and that part of the reason the board was 450 is because i have to let an apple certified technician change the board for me.

full disclosure time - i'm writing this on a mac though i didn't buy it (my better half's office was switching to pcs and had a lottery to give out the rest of their clamshell imacs and she won) and i could just as easily if not more easily write another blog about what's wrong with pcs. it's just that, starting with the release of the ipod, apple, very wisely by the way, figured out that if you make something pretty and bright and manage to create a sense of community among your users, you can defnintely sell your product for a premium over your competition (the ipod is not the best portable mp3 player on the market, and by all accounts, the iphone is a mediocre phone at best,) kind of like a techie country club.

i'm not telling you not to buy a mac - like i said, they're perfectly good machines and if money were not an issue i would buy one. but the fact of the matter is that money is, and will always be, an issue. and in a straight, value based, function over fashion comparison, the pc will win every single time. i guess what i'm trying to say is that if you choose a mac, just know that a big part of what you're paying for has absolutely nothing to do with a mac itself, and everything to do with "being a mac."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Road Trip

it's road trip eve right now. my better half and i are packing up and heading to las vegas for thanksgiving weekend. i've always been a sucker for road trips -- yes, partially because i'm too cheap to fly but moreso because i've just always enjoyed road trips. i thought it would make an interesting blog to write about some of my favorite things about the good ol' road trip - and i will spare you the maudlin "it's the open road and this country is so beautiful when you just drive it" stuff*

anyways, i's sure both of you have been on a road trip or two, and maybe you can relate to some of these...

1. your food standards go down. way down.

now i'm no health nut by any stretch of the imagination. i belive that in times past i have actually seriously believed that we should put colonel sanders on the $10 bill in place of alexander hamilton, but when you've been on a freeway for 150 miles, all of a sudden hostess cup cakes, hot dogs on rollers, and overcooked coffee that has been there for about 6 weeks seems way more reasonable than, well, pretty much any other time in your life.

2. the idea of "making good time"

i'm sure you've been on the road somewhere and at some point, usually at a lull in the conversation, somebody will ask what time it is and remark what great time you are making on the trip - even if you're taking the same amount of time to get somewhere that you always do. in the eternal optimism of the road trip, as long as you're not stuck in traffic all the way there or your car doesn't break down, you will always be right to say that you're making great time. case in point - ever since i was a kid, it has taken us 5 hours to get to my grandparents' house. it doesn't matter when we leave, or what route we take, it has always taken, and will always take 5 hours. i'm pretty sure if we left my parents' house, headed due west until we hit ohio, cut through pennsylvania and drove to my grandparents' house through canada, it would still take 5 hours. (once, my brother insisted he made the trip in 4 and a half hours; he didn't. it can't be done) as long as it looks like we'll get there in 5 - 5 1/2 hours, we're making great time - nobody will dispute that.

3. the name game

everybody knows some variant of this game - and for some reason, the only time you ever play it is when you are on the road somewhere, or if you're in college, you've probably played it as a drinking game (then again i played chutes and ladders as a drinking game in college, so take it with a grain of salt.) it's good to kill about a half hour on any road trip, or until someone names malcolm x and the next person to go sits there puzzled for 15 minutes before changing the subject to something they just saw on the road.

4. travel onset delerium

anytime i'm in a car for a long enough time (4 hours and above,) inevitably the cabin fever sets in and something completely illogical comes up. all of a sudden, 45 minutes later you're still laughing about the fact that someone at the last rest stop made an innocuous comment about splenda's market share in the artificial sweetener market. the thing is, whatever you were joking about for so long is never that funny, and when you try and retell the story to other people, even though you never realize it at the time, its always a had to be there story.

5. the travel mix

whether cd or ipod playlist or (if you're still driving an 89 sentra) mix tape, for a long trip, chances are, someone will end up making a travel mix. done well, this could be the only thing you listen to all the way there, but done poorly, you'll be skipping tracks on the first listen. so please, if you're making a mix, do it right. your passengers will thank you.

i'm sure you have others - i'd love to hear them. i'm off to pack :-)

* even though there is a nugget of truth to that sentiment - i just dont want to write a maudlin drippy blog

Sunday, November 16, 2008

VH1 - has it changed, or have we?

recently, as in a couple of weeks ago, i was having a conversation with a friend of mine, and as it often does, it got to television; most specifically vh1, and we got to talking about their broadcasting now vs. the broadcasting back in oh, say 1991, when at any given time you'd never have to wait more than 36 minutes to see the video for "everything i do, i do for you" by brian adams; the mediocre love song from the mediocre robin hood movie starring kevin costner and christian slater.* specifically, we talked about how much mtv and vh1 we watched back then vs. now.

now, as 1991 has become 2008, both channels have abandoned music videos almost entirely and have moved on to train wreck reality programming, and if you're looking for intellectually stimulating television, you're not watching either of these networks. my friend, who is 26, and i, the wise 32 year old sage that i am, turn our brains off for "rock of love" more often than we do for "the real world: tanzania (or wherever they shoot that show now.)" compare that to 1991, when we both spent a lot more time with kennedy and dave kendall than whoever the hell was on vh1 at that time (i think they just had mtv retreads, but i'm not sure.)

now here's where the conversation gets friend, and to protect her identity i won't tell you her name but i will tell you it is definitely not maria, is pretty insistent that she watches vh1 more than mtv now because while vh1 is at least watchable, mtv has crossed the line and has become unwatchable. to distill her opinion down to its essence, vh1 has changed for the better and mtv has changed for the worse (i know i probably should have just said that first...)

without getting into a debate on the merits of mtv vs. vh1, i think the reason that my friend (who is not named maria) and i watch vh1 more often than mtv is a reason bigger than just the fact that mtv stopped showing "the state" and "headbangers ball" and swapped them out for "parental control" and "true life." while both have changed, i believe that the root of the issue is that so have we. in a moment that made me feel just a little bit older than i did before, i realized that while neither of us are in mtv's target demographic anymore (and i haven't been for quite some time) we have slid right into vh1's wheelhouse. also, i have a hunch if we could talk to the programming directors for both networks, i'd bet you a case of pbr that they'd agree with me.

so i guess the question is, who's right? i admit that my writing is biased towards my opinion (because, well, it is my opinion,) but think about it; has vh1 changed for the better, or have we just become the target audience? talk amongst yourselves; i'm going to go get a good look at the back of my eyelids...

*bonus points for that song because for years after, teenagers awkwardly slow danced to it in high school gyms everywhere for about 5 years. it just might have been a more popular song to awkwardly slow dance to than "close my eyes forever," by ozzy and lita ford, but that's up for debate. maybe i'll do a blog about awkward slow dancing songs sometime in the future....also, i'm not sure when robin hood, prince of thieves actually came out, so please don't be a smarmy knowitall if that movie didn't come out until 92 or 93; i know i could have looked it up on; i just didn't feel like it..

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'd be stunned - an intro

this is my first blog entry on, and going back to the title, i'd be stunned if anybody read this whole thing (i'd be stunned if anyone got past the first sentence.)

i'm not totally sure what i'm going for with this blog; my half-assed vision is that i'll just write about my take on various things that catch my attention. it will be a little bit tv, a little bit sports, a little bit stuff i notice just by going out there and being in the world (as you've probably noticed, one thing you will not see much of is capital letters.)

on to tonight's rambling...

thursday night. the dvr ate our recording of grey's anatomy, the same way a piece of crap vcr will occasionally eat video tapes. i'll explain. i'm not sure what happened*, but in the middle of the recording, our dvr decided it would rather record a rerun of law and order on usa than grey's anatomy on abc.

i kicked around a couple of theories, and in the interest of giving both people who will read this only the best, i'll just tell you the best one i came up with.

the best thing i can come up with is that after a couple of months of recording everything dutifully for us and never infusing its own opinions, our dvr feels comfortable enough with us that it wants to start making some decisions about what we record. it's kind of like when you get a new job; for the first few months you do your best to just quietly go about your business, stay under the radar and not ruffle any feathers, until you feel reasonably comfortable in your surroundings and you start making your opinions known. i've always suspected that electronics (especially computers, which is what a dvr essentially is) are more human than we give them credit for, and perhaps this is a little evidence of that.

it's not totally unheard of; i've heard that tivos will recommend shows based on what shows you watch and record. i just find it kind of interesting that our dvr seems to be taking the extra step of actually replacing the stuff we want to record for what it thinks we should be watching. also, i'm not sure the dvr's choice of programming is much better than ours. while i admit freely that grey's anatomy is a glorified soap opera with acting only slightly better than porn, it's not like syndicated episodes of the later seasons or law and order are really any more than a lateral move.

looking at the whole experience, while i am glad our dvr is comfortable enough with us to chime in on what shows we watch, i just wish it wasn't so heavy handed about it. maybe next time there is a difference in opinion, the dvr can just flash a message when we hit record, asking us to consider other options. i don't mind my technology having opinions; i just don't think i'm ready to give it full veto power.

* actually, i know exactly what happened. it was just a weird glitch, but thinking of other options is more fun. besides, if i just said that it was a glitch from the beginning, this would be an awfully short blog.