Archive for February, 2004

Spell “washed up”

Feb 27, 2004 in Pop Culture

Fox, which has contributed greatly to the decline of the integrity of heterosexual marriage with shows such as “The Littlest Groom” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance”, is becoming a bit more intellectual, at least on Friday evenings.

Tonight’s prime time offering is a celebrity spelling bee, featuring recognizable television actors from years past. Currently, it’s down to Carol Leifer (anyone have an idea who she is?) and Brett Butler (who played a redneck single mom on her own sitcom).

And these words aren’t simple either. They’ve throwing some real stumpers out. On the last round, the celebs had the opportunity to allow an 8-year-old spelling bee champ to spell the word if they couldn’t spell it. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) and Alan Thicke (the Dad from Growing Pains) did well, and Gena Lee Nolin, Corbin Bernsen and Alice Cooper made total idiots of themselves on live television. The elimination rounds should have ended much sooner for these people.

Next week there’s a live IQ Test during this time slot (which is actually well suited for television, since IQ tests are timed). Oh, and Brett Butler won. Who says rednecks are dumb?

A possible solution to file sharing copyright issues

Feb 27, 2004 in Current Events

Digital copyright issues have been on a lot of people’s minds lately, especially with the Grey Tuesday protest and all. I was just thinking that I had no idea how it could be possible to resolve the copyright issues surrounding file sharing.

But the fine folks at the EFF have done just that:
Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing.

The EFF is proposing a blanket licensing scheme similar to that used by performing rights companies such as ASCAP and BMI. File sharers would pay a small monthly fee (possibly an added fee to to one’s high speed internet bill or college fees) that would allow them to openly share music. It’s quite similar to the existing performance licenses for radio.

Of course, it’s not perfect; some file sharers will buck the system and download illegally anyway, and what to speak of existing pay-per-download services such as iTunes and Napster? They certainly wouldn’t be happy allowing file sharers to download music legally for free. But the idea itself is a step in the right direction. Now, the hard part, of course, is getting the record labels to listen. And I have a feeling that it’s going to take years of lawsuits and industry shake-ups for them to even get to this point.

The Legend of Henry Earl

Feb 26, 2004 in Linkage

Those of you who regularly read Fark are probably already aware of Henry Earl, Lexington KY’s most famous drunk. Long a popular character in Lexington, Henry’s dubious fame has spread, and he’s even being written up in mainstream publications such as Newsweek.

Check out Henry’s arrest record and mugshots, if you haven’t already. As of this writing he’s currently detained. (For that matter, he’s spent more time in jail than out for the last twelve years or so.)

Henry also has a tribute page, a song dedicated to him, and a heavy metal band named after him.

Today is Grey Tuesday!

Feb 24, 2004 in Current Events

Today, several hundred websites are protesting EMI/Capitol’s actions against the Grey Album by turning their color scheme grey and/or hosting the Grey Album for download.

The Grey Album is the work of DJ Danger Mouse, who took the a capella version of Jay’Z’s Black Album and combined it with samples from the Beatles’ White Album.

The major labels and the RIAA have used copyright as a means of control. This protest serves to raise awareness of the necessity to change copyright law to reflect the realities of the digital age. More specifically, a compulsory rate should be established for sampling, so as to allow artists the right to borrow from copyrighted works for creative purposes, and to ensure that copyright holders are still reimbursed.

Under the current system, copyright holders (such as EMI/Capitol) have the ability to charge whatever fee they see fit for samples, and will often turn down requests outright. If DJ Danger Mouse had asked permission to use samples from the Beatles’ catalog, chances are that EMI would have turned him down, or else charged a ridiculously high fee for the privilege. Compare this to cover versions of copyrighted songs, where the artist pays an established, compulsory rate for the use of that copyright.

To learn more, visit Downhill Battle or the Grey Tuesday website.

Wistful remembrances and nostalgic schwag (:snif:)

Feb 23, 2004 in Personal

The other day, after chatting with a distant friend/ex-gf, we were saying our goodbyes to each other. She types. It seems to be a long, thoughtful message. The message pops up, and it reads: “I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. Sometimes I walk by your house, and I wish I could just knock on the door and say hi”

I thought I was gonna cry when she said that.

Evangelicals frustrated by Bush

Feb 22, 2004 in Current Events

Evangelicals frustrated by Bush - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics

Evangelicals are threatening to stay home on Election Day this year, due to their disappointment in Bush’s failure to promote their ultra-right wing agenda. And apparently it’s not just abortion and gay marriage:

“Mr. Knight points to Mr. Bush’s having “promoted the Ted Kennedy Leave No Child Behind education bill, which expanded an Education Department that social conservatives see as a fully owned subsidiary of the National Education Association, which has grown more stridently left wing in recent years. The NEA has boldly promoted the homosexual agenda for schoolchildren.”

“Also, Mr. Knight said, Mr. Bush “upped the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, which has boldly promoted the homosexual agenda for schoolchildren. The White House message to social conservatives was: ‘We don’t share your values, folks. We would rather impress the art elite at cocktail parties.’ “”

Frankly, I think it’s good they’re planning on staying home. Anyone who believes that laws should be made so that God is not displeased with the U.S. when the Rapture comes should have as little influence on our political process as possible.

I mean, c’mon people! They’re attacking art and education!

Atari Mania!

Feb 22, 2004 in Pop Culture

In a fit of nostalgia, I downloaded every Atari 2600 game ever made tonight. This is not as ridiculous a task as it may seem, since the average Atari game is around 4k, and they’re available in convenient zip libraries. You can fit them all in a 2.7 MB zip file (including the emulator).

Anyone over the age of 25 probably remembers the Atari quite fondly. It was the one video game system that Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers both played. (As I remember, the grown-ups played the Atari as much as the kids did. When’s the last time you’ve seen anyone’s mom playing a Nintendo or a Playstation for any length of time?) I remember my mom spending hours trying to beat Raiders of the Lost Ark (a ridiculously obtuse and complicated adventure game, even by today’s standards). I dutifully emailed her the 2.7 MB zip file. Hope she gets it.

As fun as old Atari games are, they’re only entertaining for a few minutes. But with over 500 games available, there’s plenty of ADHD-style entertainment. So, head over to Atari Age and do the following:

  • Download an emulator (I recommend Cyberstella or z26)
  • Download some ROMS (hell, download ‘em all from the top of the page!)

While you’re at it:

Have fun!

Thoughts on offshoring and the economy

Feb 21, 2004 in Current Events

IANAE (I am not an economist), but…

The Economist has a lead article this month about the outsourcing of jobs to countries like India and China. Predictably, most people’s reaction to this has been quite negative, and politicians on both ends of the political spectrum seem to agree.

My reaction was the same at first, the sense of dread derived from the thought of America’s economic race to the bottom. But considering that economists across the board seem to agree that offshoring can be a good thing, I’m not so sure anymore.

According to the article, outsourcing (or offshoring) has been going on for a long time, and up until now, it has mostly been industrial and manufacturing jobs. The disappearance of manufacturing jobs hasn’t killed our economy, so it seems unlikely that exporting white-collar jobs will either.

From an economic standpoint, offshoring will ultimately lower prices here in America, and as a result, some of the new jobs that will be created will be high paying ones, primarily in the tech sector.

But the thing that concerns me (and many other people) is the fact that many of the manufacturing jobs here that went to other countries were replaced by lower-paying service-sector jobs. In other words, when one’s manufacturing, accounting, or coding job goes overseas, the jobs that replace them can and have included Walmart (which benefits greatly from lower prices) and McDonalds.

Another point the article makes is that of job churning. The numbers indicate that far more jobs are created than destroyed in the American economy, and on average, the number of jobs going overseas are a drop in the bucket compared to the number that are destroyed each and every quarter. This is convincing evidence indeed.

The author points to the rising percentage of Americans in the workforce as a positive sign, proof that America does create enough jobs. But what’s overlooked is that since the 1980’s, the number of Americans in the workforce has expanded because it became necessary to have two-earner familes, and older workers are continuing to work well past retirement age.

Ultimately it’s an issue of living standards for the middle classes, and this is the feeling, i think, that’s driving the opposition against the offshoring trend. It’s encouraging to know that many high paying jobs are created as a result of the competitiveness of offshoring, but not everyone is qualified or even interested in becoming an IT specialist or database admin. Even today, only 25% of the American population has a college degree. The 55% that are high school graduates are gradually seeing their employment choices limited to relatively low-paying service-sector work.

It seems though, that the trend towards offshoring is inevitable, and the changes that negatively affect individuals are likely to continue. The author leaves a final bit of wisdom, which would be prudent for our future president to heed (emphasis mine):

“Yes, individuals will be hurt in the process, and the focus of public policy should be directed towards providing a safety net for them, as well as ensuring that Americans have education to match the new jobs being created.”

As a final note, education is often touted as the panacea for American job growth in the face of offshoring. While more Americans are going to college, many are finding themselves swamped with student loan debt. Since it’s becoming necessary to get a college education to compete in a global economy, government would be well advised to make it more affordable for Americans to go to college.

This goes along with my thought that the money from Bush’s record deficit-causing tax cuts would have been put to better use by extending unemployment benefits and alleviating the fiscal crunch that all states are suffering from right now. The resulting budget cuts are the main reason why my (and your) college tuition has been increasing.

Bloooogs. Need more blooogs! (Argh…pllllt!)

Feb 20, 2004 in Personal

Ok readers, all several hundred of you a day (at least thats what my web stats say). I need some good blogs to read.

I’ve got about a dozen or so (listed to the right) that I already check out. But it’s time consuming trying to find good blogs to read. I need the kind denizens of the blogging community to hook me up (and i don’t just mean the really popular weblogs that everyone already reads).

So, post your suggestions, link me to your OPML files or better yet, email your Bloglines subscriptions to me (email: ). Feel free to suggest your own too.

An eager blogger and info junkie thanks you.

Yanking shit from other people’s blogs again

Feb 19, 2004 in Linkage

Why Marilyn is such a bad mother

…so when dinner was over, my sister dared him to drink the bowl of salsa for a dollar. He says ok.. and instead of me stepping in to tell him why that is a bad idea and tell him how he will get a stomach ache, I hand him a straw… a fucking straw…for salsa.