Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Global warming...

is not something I give a lot of thought to. I think it is difficult to judge so-called climate changes with data gathered over a short period of time (very very very short time, in geologic terms). But I'm not here to argumentate about global warming. I'm here to point out this article, which states that our president and his administration appear to have been exerting some of their "political influence" (see my post down the page a bit for more info on that little concept) to get climatologists to say what they want them to say.

But really, it's not so much the overall content of the article (should anyone be surprised by this?) as it is the following little blurb contained therein, which I really don't know what to say except What???:

"...Cooney, who was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute before becoming chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality..."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bigger is better!

Well, maybe.

The other night I watched a highly underrated movie called Idiocracy. It is a movie made by Mike Judge, and a very funny and good one, according to me. Here's a good review.

The premise of the movie is that Luke Wilson, average American, is frozen and wakes up 500 years in the future. In the future, everyone is much dumber, their brains having been smallened by the twin influences of reverse natural selection (i.e., stupid people breed faster than smart people), and unchecked consumer culture. All of which makes Luke Wilson the smartest person in the world (like, by far).

But so a major part of the plot occurs when Luke Wilson goes with his defense lawyer to Costco, where the object they are searching for is said to be. I am paraphrasing, but this colloquy follows:

Luke Wilson: "Do you know what section it's in?"

Defense Lawyer: "Yeah, it's over by consumer electronics, about an hour's walk."

Luke Wilson: "Are you sure you know where you're going?"

Defense Lawyer: "Yeah, I know Costco... I went to law school here."

So yeah, Costco is big. So very very big. I went there the next day (a coincidence!). It's like Super Wal-Mart, but super-sized, on steroids, as seen through a telescope.

Do you want to buy a package of toilet paper so big that it will not fit in your SUV? Would you be interested in a lifetime supply of dryer-sheets? Do you want to purchase enough bleach to fill every bathtub, sink, showerstall, and every other receptacle in your house 5 times over? Could I interest you in a five-gallon bucket of mouthwash?

Well, good. Because all that and more is available for your consuming needs, at Costco. But not just bulk consumables. No. Also: 80in HD-TVs, an array of eliptical machines, high-end designer sunglasses, performance automobile tires, Dom Perignon by the case, about half an acre of paperback airplane fiction, a 192pc socket set, and a box of 144 (one gross) frozen, hand-breaded, jumbo shrimp tempura.

They don't appear to actually have a law school. But I did notice a sign-up sheet for classes where you can learn to manage your small business's 401(k) program.

Costco even sells, for the low low price of $50 each, boxes of air, which you can purchase as a gift for a friend or loved one, said boxes purporting to contain memberships which will allow that friend or loved one to... shop at Costco!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Top 10 things I learned in College

10. You are not -- I repeat NOT -- entitled to anything. At all.

9. Dishes and clothes do not wash themselves.

8. Ramen noodles are a legitimate source of nourishment.

7. Gay people are not a myth.

6. The kind of car you drive is not, in the whole scheme of things, really all that important.

5. A mullet does not make you a rebel.

4. "Rent" is not just a broadway musical.

3. Kegs are really pretty simple to obtain. And just because 5 people can drain one in a single night doesn't mean they should.

2. The population of the world is rather large, and therefore it does actually contain more than 5 smart people.

1. Girls who didn't grow up in a small town populated almost exclusively with Baptists are, in a word, easy.

Drinking is Fun

Clearly I am still, umm, in the process of building readership for this blog. A process that is not at all helped by the fact that I: (a) seem to be updating it about 2 times per week on average, and (b) have mentioned its existence to a grand total of 2 people.

Regarding the former, I am lazy and lack imagination. Regarding the latter, I had hoped to build up some content (and try to get better at the former) before I started to tell people about it. It may be getting closer to that time, though I'm still self-conscious about the quality (and relevance) of the content. Probably shouldn't think about it so much.

But so anyway, I said all that to say this: I have the intent, at some point, to start posting information on here regarding periodic social drinking opportunities for those expatriate Wise County-ites who might happen to live near here (NE Tarrant County). There are already a handful of us who get together occasionally. And sometimes peeps even drive over here from wherever. Expanding this group might prove interesting (or, more likely, be a trainwreck, but those can be fun too).

If you fall into this category (i.e., have a WC connection of some kind, enjoy drinking, want to meet new people or reconnect with old ones, are in the vicinity or don't mind making the trip, and aren't a complete asshole), then watch this space for more info at some indefinite point in the future.


New Vacation Hot Spot: The Great Concavity

To follow up on the last post, here's a good quote I came across from DFW re: IJ:

"It's a weird book. It doesn't move the way normal books do. It's got a whole bunch of characters. I think it makes at least an in-good-faith attempt to be fun and riveting enough on a page-by-page level so I don't feel like I'm hitting the reader with a mallet, you know, "Hey, here's this really hard impossibly smart thing. Fuck you. See if you can read it." I know books like that and they piss me off."

Here's a good page with a lot of links to IJ reviews and stuff.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"The American Century as Seen Through a Brick"

Sorry to say, I missed the 10th anniversary of Infinite Jest. But Time Magazine didn't.

So far I have recommended this book to three people. One of them read it in about 6 weeks, though I think it took him 3 to read the first 100 pages. He loved it. Another gave up after an undisclosed amount of time, and recently told me it was pretentious, unreadable, and written for faux-intellectuals like me (I don't think he liked it. or likes me, for that matter). The third is about a quarter of the way through after, umm, 9 months now.

So I'm not recommending it to anyone anymore. Those who will get it will eventually find it. As for me, I will likely read it again. Sometime around the Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad.


Bob Loblaw's Law Blog

No content, just funny headline.

Stolen (of course) from Arrested Development. This post (on which I commented) made me think of it.

Why does it make me feel so guilty to laugh at my own jokes??

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Academy...

ok, I didn't actually win anything. But one of the commenters on another blog wrote a note complimenting me on my erudition. It was kind of a back-handed compliment, in that it was qualified by something like "...for a Wise County person".

AND I should point out that this person was quite possibly being entirely ironic, and if not it was probably a family member or close friend using a pseudonym.

But in any event. Do I mention this to blow my own horn? Well, as a Rap Star, I certainly have no qualms against self-promotion. But in this particular case, I mention it not for purposes of self-glorification, but because it provides me with an opportunity to give props to good ol' DHS (school that we love, I sing unto theeee!).

This school has been on the receiving end of many, many criticisms over the years (most recently, the ridiculous flap over the so-called "leadership class"). These criticisms are probably well-deserved, at least in large part. Some of the things that have been done there are astoundingly dumb.

However. Despite the grumblings of Decaturites, and complaints from me and my DHS classmates while in attendance there, and further despite the thinly disguised slings and arrows directed at small-town public education by many ostensibly well-educated persons I have encountered throughout my adulthood, I have since leaving there come to realize that I did, in fact, receive a first class high school education.

Would I have learned more at an East Coast Ivy-League feeder school (Andover, Exeter, etc)? Perhaps (although there is absolutely no possible way I would not have been kicked out of those places had I pulled some of the same stunts I pulled at DHS). But my experience has shown me that I should be proud of my DHS education.

For example: I attended a tremendously competitive university for my undergrad studies. In this place, the just-barely-unofficial goal of most of the first two years' worth of classes is to fail you out of there. They have far too many students, and they are counting on high attrition rates to weed people out. Combine this with the fact that, back then, I had somewhat of a, shall we say, lackadaisical attitude toward my studies and a terribly misplaced sense of entitlement, and it would come as no surprise to me or anyone if I had been one of the attritionees.

But the fact that I did not flunk out, and did in fact graduate from that place, stands as a shining tribute to the education I received at DHS. So, for that, Ms. A_ _ _ _ _, Ms. E_ _ _, Mr. I_ _ _ _ _, and yes, even you Mr. J_ _ _ _ _ P _ _ _ _ _, wherever you are today, thank you most sincerely.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Peak Oil Part III: Political Implications, Anyone?

[Note: Your full enjoyment of this post will depend upon your having read the post immediately below (Peak Oil Part II) and to a lesser extent the original Peak Oil post]

I am not an economist. Nor am I a petroleum engineer. And yet I have been able, in my spare time, to figure out the stuff below. It isn't some tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory, nor is it based on unreliable or hard-to-find information. This stuff is all pretty basic, and you can bet it is well-known by governments and oil companies.

Certainly it is known by our own government. There is even a bi-partisan Congressional Peak Oil caucus. Certainly it is known by oil companies, because MK Hubbert was a geophysicist working for Shell Oil when he developed the Peak Oil theory over 50 years ago.

Certainly it is known by one Richard Bruce Cheney, who currently serves as Vice President of these United States. In fact, when Mr. Cheney was Chairman and Chief Executive of Halliburton, he gave this speech to the Institute of Petroleum. Mr. Cheney clearly recognizes the importance of oil:
Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world’s economy... It is the basic, fundamental building block of the world’s economy. It is unlike any other commodity.
Mr. Cheney clearly recognizes the finite nature of oil and the importance of supply keeping up with demand:
Oil companies are expected to keep finding and developing enough oil to offset our seventy one million plus barrel a day of oil depletion, but also to meet new demand. By some estimates there will be an average of two per cent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a three per cent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day.
It is worth noting that, according to this admittedly conservative analysis (based on more recent demand numbers, I would say it is very conservative), within a space of ten years we will need to increase production from 70 million barrels per day to 120 barrels per day, an increase of over 70%, in order to meet increases in demand.

Mr. Cheney continues by asking "So where is the oil going to come from?" He then complains that 90% of the world's oil reserves are controlled by state-owned oil companies, and thus unavailable for exploitation by privately owned oil companies. But then he answers his own question: "While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies, even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow."

Yes, progress continues to be slow, at least in 1999. But how can we speed up the progress of private oil companies getting access to state-controlled oil in the Middle East?
Oil is the only large industry whose leverage has not been all that effective in the political arena. Textiles, electronics, agriculture all seem oftentimes to be more influential. I am struck that this industry is so strong technically and financially yet not as politically successful or influential as are often smaller industries. We need to earn credibility to have our views heard.
Yes, political influence. You know, I bet by getting yourself and one of your cronies elected to high public office, say, for example, President and Vice President of the United States, might well give you just a bit of political influence.

But once you have this political influence, what, oh what, might you possibly do with it?

Peak Oil part II

Peak Oil is a "theory" only in the sense that it tries to predict when the peak will come. The premise on which this theory is based, the fact that oil (and similar hydrocarbons) is a finite resource that will eventually run out, is not in dispute. This is to point out that the peak in oil production will come, the only question is when.

Peak Oil can be applied to an individual well, an oil field, a group of oil fields, a nation, a region, and, presumably, the planet as a whole. Typically though, when people speak of Peak Oil they are using it in a planetary sense.

Some experts are on record as stating that the peak has already occurred. In fact, 33 of the 48 largest oil producing countries have already reached peak production and have begun to decline. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 and has steadily declined ever since. This was accurately predicted by Hubbert in 1956. Other experts predict that the peak is either imminent or, according to the most conservative predictions, will occur sometime in the next 20 years.

The importance here, of course, lies in the consequences of a decline in production after a century and more of increase. The fact is, consumption of and demand for oil very closely tracks production, increasing at roughly the same rate. In other words, the oil currently being produced is not being stockpiled; it is being used as fast as it can be pumped, refined, and transported. For this reason, when production begins to decline, consumption will necessarily also decline.

But will demand for oil also decline? Of course not. Demand for oil is, quite simply, driven by population increases and expanding economies. So, if you can envision the Peak Oil graph, and look near the top where production is still increasing, you should be able to superimpose a demand curve that will continue to move upward at the same rate, while the production curve goes downward. The resulting gap should be our concern. Even a rudimentary knowledge of supply and demand principles will tell you that this gap will rapidly cause prices to rise.

The rise in oil prices will certainly hurt global economies, and probably in a devastating fashion. But at some point, the strategic importance of oil will trump any economic considerations. In other words, countries that do not have their own oil will be at a strategic (and security) disadvantage.

Think of it this way: the production of food, especially in this country, relies to a very great extent upon fossil fuels. Farm machinery, irrigation systems, and transportation all rely on oil to operate. Without sufficient oil, food production drastically declines. The same goes for the production and operation of military equipment. Also safe drinking water and sewage treatment. The everyday consequences of moderate-to-severe oil shortage are far-reaching in the extreme.

What the heck is this???


Desperately seeking...

something to post about other than Iraq/geopolitics. Here's a link to an iPhone test drive. This thing is obviously supercool, and I want to be the first kid on the block to have one. I estimate this will cost me upwards of $800, given that I will need to terminate my existing phone contract and move to a new carrier, and that I can't buy the cheaper 4Gb one, but must have the more expensive 8Gb. Yeah, yeah, I'm a consumer, so kill me. But this thing's "gotta have it" factor is off the charts.

Reading this article does give me some pause though, as a non-Mac person. Apple's obsession with keeping everything proprietary to themselves has always bothered me, and I think it has definitely held their computers back in some ways. It looks like they might be planning this again to a certain extent with the iPhone, which could hurt its utility with business users. But then again, when considering something like this, "utility" and "practicality" tend to go out the window in the face of flat-out gee-whiz coolness. Only 5 months til June!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Peak Oil

I have been planning a post on this for some time now, but since it is somewhat related to the story below (I plan to connect this up in later posts) I might as well get it out there now.

At a basic level, "Peak Oil" theory is based on the fact that oil is a finite (unrenewable) resource. The theory states that the production of oil therefore can be plotted as a bell curve (the y axis being amount of production, and the x axis being time). At the top of this curve (the "peak") oil production is at its maximum, and as you move to the right of the peak (forward in time) oil production steadily declines.

The illustration (top right) is from a paper advanced by M.K. Hubbert in 1956. The dates given along the x axis are theoretical based on data available at that time, and have since been updated by others.

You can read further about this in the Wikipedia article. My favorite website on this is here, although they seem to have recently taken the unfortunate step of including a lot of propaganda for global warming (try to ignore this -- the two issues are not related).

Anyway. The implications of this theory are that at some point in the future (near or distant, depending on who you believe) the demand for oil (which is steadily increasing and will continue to to so) will begin to far outstrip production (which will begin to decrease). Because of the importance of oil to the global economy and to our everyday lives, this will cause all manner of negative consequences.

Does this relate to what is going on in Iraq? Stay tuned.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I don't know whether this is a reputable news source...

But the story is too juicy not to mention. It says in The Independent, which is apparently a newspaper in the UK, that the Iraqi parliament will soon pass a law clearing the way for massive investment in Iraq's oil industry by western oil companies such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and BP.

Clearly there is a lot to be said about this, but I have Iraq induced tired-head right now, so will follow-up with a later post.

UPDATE: after looking into this a little more, I am prepared to say that The Independent is indeed a reputable news source, though it remains to be seen whether this particular bit of reportage is accurate. The paper further claims that its reporters have actually seen a draft of this legislation.

So much for not thinking about Iraq

Ok, now the Iraq thing is in my head. Here's a link to a recap of our president's interview on 60 Minutes. Some excerpts:
The president bridled at the suggestion that he has been less than forthcoming with the American people about such matters as the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the lack of any connection between the September 11, 2001 attacks and Iraq, and predictions that the war would cost about $50 billion -- far short of the current $400 billion price tag.
How many corporate CEOs would keep their positions after the stockholders realized that a project proposed by that CEO and undertaken by the company will end up costing at least 8 times the amount originally budgeted? Didn't Republicans used to be the party of fiscal responsibility?
"I strongly reject that this administration hasn't been straight with the American people," he said. "The minute we found out they didn't have weapons of mass destruction, I was the first to say so."
Well, at least the first to say so other than Saddam Hussein. And again with a corporate analogy: How many CEOs would keep their jobs after spending that much money, relative to their overall corporate budget, not to mention other resources (think personnel, as well as corporate goodwill), to undertake a project based on a premise that turns out not to be true? And if this were the real reason we undertook this project (i.e., a war, for God's sake, with real actual dead people, and lots of them), don't you think we might should have investigated this a bit more and sought to, like, actually confirm it first?

As he did in his Wednesday speech, when he announced the deployment of more troops to the nearly 4-year-old war, Bush acknowledged his administration made mistakes in Iraq. Bush allowed that low troop levels "could have been a mistake," that led to a widespread breakdown in law and order after the March 2003 invasion.

So... the war itself, invading a country, killing thousands of its citizens and thousands of ours, spending 400 billion dollars to do so, at a cost of 8x the amount originally estimated, all based on
information found and admitted to be 100% false, all that isn't a mistake, the only mistake was (maybe) that we didn't send enough military over there in the first place?
"We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem here in America: They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."
Oh, so that's the problem. If only there was a significant enough gratitude level, people in America wouldn't care that we spent 400 billion dollars and lost 3000+ soldiers to invade a country based on false information.

If there is such a thing as a "credibility gap", I think our president has fallen head over heels into it.

The emperor has no clothes

I've started to pay less and less attention to Iraq because it hurts my head to think about it. And also it makes me sad.

But the speech by our beloved president the other night and the reactions I've seen to it really forced me to give it some thought. Maybe I am really going crazy, but it looks like what has happened is that the administration's Iraq policies, and the war in general, have really taken a beating in terms of public and congressional support. The administration has acknowledged this. They've been mulling it over, and commissioning study groups, and supposedly listening to fresh viewpoints and etc. They've spent many weeks getting out the message that they are working on a new plan. And what they came up with is...

Let's send in more troops and make the war bigger.

The public and its newly elected congress doesn't like the war, so... let's escalate the war! This appears to be under the leadership theory of "I bet they didn't see this coming!" It's like Bush is trying to be Opposite Man.

I shouldn't be surprised by this, so I'm trying not to be. But what is definitely surprising to me in this situation is the way the media and the public seem to be reacting to this. I've yet to see where anyone has said "But wait, that's exactly the opposite of what we were hoping for." Everyone seems to be buying this "fresh approach" thing that the administration is selling. It isn't a fresh approach, it's the exact same approach, but more. "What, you were hoping for an exit strategy? Oh, nooo, we're still working on our newer, bigger entry strategy."

check out that wind chill

have not gone outside yet. and don't want to.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Does this mean "The Hobbit" might

actually be faithful to the storlyline of Tolkein's book? Says here that Bob Shaye, head of New Line Cinema, is unequivocal in stating that Peter Jackson will not direct New Line's production of "The Hobbit".

Jackson is suing New Line for allegedly misreporting revenues in order to keep from paying him his contractual share. According to Variety, Shaye stated that Jackson "will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again" as long as Shaye works at the company.

Well, ok. These things happen. I can see both their viewpoints. Apparently a lot of Rings-heads see this as a very bad thing. But, as a huge fan of Tolkien's books, I have mixed feelings about this, and tend to think that maybe it's a good thing.

Why? Because while I appreciate Jackson's contribution in bringing Lord of the Rings to the big screen, and while I recognize that there's a lot to like about the movies, Peter Jackson is on my all-time shitlist for what he did to the story in The Return of the King.

Forgive me if I go into to much detail here, but I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a while now:

Back when these movies came out, I was a cinema-phobe. I love movies and always have, but for several years there I was unable to attend movies in the theater. I could not get past being packed into a room with a bunch of snivelling kids, loud-talkers, seat-stealers, fucktards who can't turn off their cellphones, drug-dealer wannabes with their pagers blowin' up, and on and on.

So the way I watched movies was to wait until the DVDs came out. This was hard for me to do sometimes, and especially when the Fellowship of the Ring came out. But I just couldn't go to the theater, so I waited until the DVD came out, bought it that same day, and watched it as soon as I got home. I thought it was phenomenal. Then I bought the 4-disc collector's edition. I then repeated this process with The Two Towers. Again, phenomenal.

But, when The Return of the King came out, I bought it the day it was released, went home and watched it right away. Phenomenal... for the first half hour. Then bleakness set in. This is the part of the movie where Faramir, brother of fellowship member Boromir, takes Frodo and Sam to his hideout behind the waterfall. Certain events then take place wherein Faramir discovers the existence of The Ring and its importance. This takes place in the movie and the book.

But that's where things go wrong. In the book (which is actually in The Two Towers), Faramir becomes stern and frightens Frodo and Sam when he learns of The Ring. But he does this only momentarily, perhaps to impress upon them the dangers of carelessness. He then says "not if I found it on the highway would I take it." He says that he is not a man who desires such a thing, but that he is a man "wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee." This is a stunning scene. Faramir assures Frodo and Sam that not only will he refrain from robbing them of The Ring, but that he will do all that he can to further their quest.

Tolkien wrote Faramir as one of the wisest, bravest, and most honorable characters in an epic story full of wise, brave, and honorable characters. Further, he is used to set up a dichotomy between himself and his brother. Boromir is a man of action; a warrior with a shoot-first disposition. He is impatient and does not believe in parleys, or councils, or drawn-out decisionmaking. He is physically brave, but also has a certain weakness of character and a lack of self-control. Faramir is thoughtful and intellectually inclined. He is reserved; a scholar who believes in only well-considered action. He is also physically brave, and an accomplished fighter, but he is patient and has iron self-control.

In my view, the contrast between these two characters is crucial thematically. It is also a great part of the plot. And Faramir, as noted, is one of the book's greatest characters.

But then, along comes Peter Jackson. In the movie, of course, Faramir turns out to be nothing more than a two bit pirate who kidnaps Frodo, Sam, and The Ring to further his own ends. He proceeds to take into the middle of some battle, where they have to escape from him. Thereby destroying all of the outstanding (and essential) elements noted above.

I find this atrocity of cinematic storytelling to be utterly incomprehensible. I can understand the concept that movies cannot always be faithful to their source material. The change from one medium to the other often necessitates that certain plot elements be modified for many different reasons. In this particular case, no such reason exists. None whatsoever. It is an abomination. It ruined the entire trilogy. It is a disgrace -- nay, a fiendish depravity -- possibly without par in cinematic history.

To this day my two 4-disc collector sets sit on my shelf. They will never be joined by a third.

Too much serious stuff on here lately...

So here's this. The picture is kinda funny (I guess it is Britney Spears?), but the comment that the guy makes right under the newspaper quote is enough to make you expel milk through your nose. Pretty funny website, by the way. Though I don't read it myself. No, never.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

"liberal" is now a four letter word

Not to harp too much on our friends over at Liberal Lean, but that blog does attract some questionable posters.

And also, not to pick on this one person specifically, who apparently has enough intelligence to post to a blog, and yet does not apparently have the requisite brainpower to read what he/she just wrote before hitting "publish", BUT:

If you call an entire group of people names in the first clause of your first sentence, do not then continue on with your post to make a diatribe with the goal of pointing out that said group of people should not engage in name-calling. This, oh internets, is what might, possibly, conceivably, be referred to in some circles as "hypocrisy".

But that's not what I really want to call attention to. What I really want to diatribe about myownself is that the word "liberal" is not a fucking slur, however much you really really want it to be.

Let's get this straight for all the dullards who are capable of clicking their mouses and typing on their keyboards without bothering to use their FoxNews-soaked brain-like organs: "liberal" when used as a noun refers to someone of liberal (adjectival) principles. And "liberal" when used adjectivally means "favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties."

For those who can read and understand the English language, the above definition describes your humble author just about perfectly. In other words, you can call me "liberal" all day long and I won't take offense, even if you want me to. I am, without any doubt, "favorable to... concepts of maximum individual freedom". And you mean that as an insult??? You might as well call me a "freedomist". So-fucking-what. That's a BAD thing now? I don't take offense to being called that, but if you believe that that is a bad thing, then: Get your sorry ass out of my country. Immediately.

The media is responsible for our trouble in Iraq

Or, at least that's what one of the posters said over on "Liberal Lean". His argument appears to be that the media wants us to suffer defeat in Iraq and is bringing this about by reporting certain facts about Iraq. For example, the media frequently reports the number of American soldiers killed and wounded there. The media also sometimes reports that there is quite a lot of violence and disorder there, in Iraq. Sometimes, in addition to this reportage, the media then also makes comments expressing the opinion that, for example, the number of American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, coupled with the overall amount of violence and disorder in Iraq, might lead one to conclude that, well, things aren't really going all that well for us in Iraq.

I think I can probably agree with this assessment of what the media is doing. What I can't seem to wrap my mind around though, is how reporting what is going on, and forming obvious conclusions based on this reporting, is actually causing the very thing that is being reported. There is some kind of logical fallacy there, but the whole thing is so muddled that I can't seem to put my finger on it.

But anyway. Is The Media really plotting our nation's destruction? Does it really have as its goal the victory of our enemies?

Let's think this through. First, "The Media" really doesn't exist. It is comprised of: (1) journalists, editors, commentators, reporters, etc (i.e., people) who presumably have parents, kids, homes, bank accounts, mortgages, etc (i.e., regular lives), and (2) newspapers, television stations, networks, websites, etc (i.e., companies) who presumably desire to make a profit and continue in existence.

Next: do these people and companies want The Terrorists to win? Is it their objective to have this country overrun by irrational forces who want to kill their families, burn their homes, erase their profits, and destroy their livelihoods (and lives)???

To believe this is the height of lunacy. These people and companies have their continued existence at stake to the same extent as the rest of us, and probably more so given that our enemies don't believe in free speech and would stamp out The Media as their first act after coming to power. Totally illogical and completely insupportable.

But, in what has to be one of the dumbest things I've heard lately, some people believe we should pre-emptively stamp out the media ourselves, gag and censor them, in order to keep them from eventually helping to stamp themselves out. But I guess anything that will keep us from having to face unpleasant facts is a good thing. At a minimum, we can at least get The View off the air.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Charter Communications cable system: Stay Away!

I have had it with Charter cable. As soon as I find a workable alternative, I will be saying good riddance to them.

The dvr they have provided me, and the "dvr service" that goes along with it, is pure crap. For more information on this, see below.

Today, I sat down to watch me some NFL playoffs. This viewing experience was completely ruined, along with my afternoon, because of the bug detailed below. That is, I had paused the Jets-Patriots game, gone off to do some other stuff, and when I came back about an hour later I found that the dvr had stopped recording after about 30 minutes. So I had lost about half an hour of the game.

To compound this fuck-up, as noted below, the only way to make the dvr start recording again is to change the channel (thereby losing everything you've recorded on the channel you're navigating away from, whether you've watched it or not), then change the channel back to the original channel. At which point you are now at the live broadcast point. So, really, in order to be able to see any of the game past the live broadcast point where you discovered this problem, you can't even watch the part that it DID record. So, actually I lost an hour of the game instead of just half an hour.

So, silly me, since this only happens every once in while, I changed the channel, changed it back, hit pause, and then went off to do some other stuff again so that I could build up some recording delay (that way you don't have to watch commercials, or the inane studio half time show, etc). But of course when I came back 40 minutes later I found that the same thing had again occured.

Instead of smashing my tv (or more appropriately, my dvr) as I probably would have done a couple of years ago in my salad days, I went onto these internets and looked up Charter's website. Charter's website, as also noted below, is one of the shittiest sites in the history of the internets. Its purpose is to con unsuspecting consumers into buying Charter's shitty products. To this end, it has a "support" section, which is basically a bunch of bad ad copy masquerading as "FAQs". A search of said support section reveals exactly two "articles" containing the word "dvr". One is a list of items you will receive when you go to the Charter office to pick up your dvr. How this information is helpful is beyond the potential of my weak consumer brainpower.

The other article is an "FAQ" containing 9 questions. 9. I have listed some of these questions below (Yes, these are the actual questions in this FAQ, an FAQ posted on the website of a multi-billion dollar company, a company which has been granted monopoly status over an important consumer service by a long list of municipalities, including, unfortunately, the one I happen to live in), along with somewhat more appropriate answers than are actually provided in the actual FAQ:

1. What is the difference between a Charter DVR and a VCR? [ANSWER: a VCR generally does what it purports to do.]

3. When will Charter DVR be available in my area? [ANSWER: Ummm, don't you mean, when will a WORKING Charter DVR be available in my area?]

4. Will I need to purchase any special equipment to use Charter DVR? [ANSWER: No, not if you are uninterested in watching television. However, for those interested in watching television, we recommend purchasing the following additional equipment and services: a TIVO unit, lifetime TIVO subscription, sattelite dish, and a DirecTV subscription]

5. I am a Charter Cable subscriber. Will Charter DVR be available to me? [ANSWER: Ummm, if you keep asking the same stupid fucking questions, we'll have to keep giving you the same stupid fucking answers]

6. I am interested in buying a DVR; can I use a DVR purchased from my local electronics retailer with Charter Digital? [ANSWER: Maybe. If you are a hard core electronics geek, you might can get this to work, but we've made it as difficult as we possibly could without really "violating" any fair trade regulations or consumer protection statutes. NOTE: on second glance, this answer is almost identical to the one they actually provide]

7. Can I get a DVR that allows me to watch and record HD programming? [ANSWER: Yes, we have these! They are called "Charter DVR". But if you want one that actually works, please see FAQs #4 and #6 above]

8. Can I record programs from HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc using Charter DVR? [ANSWER: Yes! But recording programs from these channels will be just as infuriatingly hit-and-miss as recording programs from regular channels]

As you can see, these FAQs are completely worthless as "support" for the many and varied problems one will encounter while trying to make use of Charter DVR.

More later.