October 31, 2003

Another iPod Update

The quest for a $50 Apple iPod is proving to be quite a challenge. But I haven't given up, and there is a new twist. I took a chance on an auction for an AS IS unit that has some rust around its firewire port and wouldn't power up. I won the auction for $25.00.

My rusty iPod arrived and my hope was that if I could clean up the rust I could get it to work. I was wrong. even after the port was cleaned it still didn't work. I pried open the case and took a good look at the circuit board. There didn't appear to be any water damage there. I thought perhaps the battery was bad, but a replacement would cost me $50 and even if it did work, that would put me well over my $50 spending limit.

So the rusted iPod is for sale on Ebay once again. At a minimum I am hoping to recover my $25. If I can sell it at a profit I am going to ad that money to my spending limit.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:39 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 30, 2003

Security? 

UPDATE
Fox news has taken down their breaking news alert - CNN is reporting that the gun turned out to be a plastic toy that was a prop for a haloween costume. That it was brought through security and caused a lockdown of the building is still cause for concern.

FOX News is reporting a security breach at the Cannon Office Building in Washington DC. The Cannon building houses offices form some members of the House or Representatives as well as some committee rooms.

Apparently, the suspect was attempting to bring a gun into the building in backpack, When the gun was detected the man grabbed the bag and ran into the building.

This is an ongoing breaking story so details may not be 100% accurate. But if these basic facts are accurate it certainly begs the question of what good are the metal detectors and the people operating them. Yes, they know there is someone lose in the building with a gun and they can and are taking steps to clear the building and find the suspect. None of that will be of any comfort to anyone who happens to get shot before he gets captured.

I have to take a rare trip for business in two weeks. If this is the level of security the government provides for itself, I'm a little doubtful about what they are providing for me.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:33 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 29, 2003

Truth 1, CBS 0

According to a World Net Daily report CBS has given in to pressure and threats of sponsor boycotts and will be making some revisions to the script for the upcoming miniseries on the Reagans.

As more Reagan supporters begin mounting boycott efforts, CBS President and CEO Les Moonves says the network is adjusting the script of its upcoming miniseries on the former president and his wife to present a more balanced view.

In an interview with Tina Brown to be broadcast tonight on CNBC, Moonves said criticism of a film nobody has seen is "rather odd." But in an apparent response to growing criticism generated by publishing of script excerpts by the DrudgeReport and the New York Times, he indicated changes would be made.

"We've looked at the rough cut, there are things we like ... there are things we don't like ... there are things we think go too far," he told Brown, according to the New York Post. "So there are some edits being made trying to present a more fair picture of the Reagans." (emphasis added)

What strikes me about this is not that CBS is making changes in response to public pressure - The Internet Strikes Again - but the admission by CBS President Les Moonves that the movie as originally scripted was unfair. (see bolded quote above).

Why do I have a suspicion that the revised version will stall fall short of fair and accurate?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:39 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 28, 2003

Motivation

I have always considered myself to be an optimist. It comes from a firm belief in my own ability, and having the patience to keep going until things come out right. It's a fundamental belief that life does not equal misery and a willingness to work to make it so. That said the motivational artwork seen around our offices, and I am sure many others, makes me sick. You've seen them if you've ever been in a standard issue corporate office. They can be found on the walls of anyone lucky enough to not be in a cube, and in most of the conference rooms. It's the picture of a 6 man rowing crew with the word TEAMWORK over some incredibly sappy corporate blather probably written by someone who couldn't last in the HR department. They have one for INSPIRATION, COURAGE, SUCCESS, and INTEGRITY. On their own there is nothing wrong with these concepts, and nothing wrong with the pictures either, but something about they way they are put together and hung in a cheap plastic frame makes me ill.


Today's mail brought a measure of relief. Today we received a catalog from Despair, Inc. The headline over the message from the founder

Are you ready to unleash the power of mediocrity?
The founder's message reads in part:
Think about it for just a moment - what hidden potentials exist within you?

Perhaps you're a wholly reasonable person with the potential to become an irrational fool? Perhaps your a team player, with a potentially argumentative loner lurking about inside you? Or perhaps your a dreamer, within whom lives a potentially disillusioned grouse, simply waiting to take fight upon wings of bitterness?

And when you browse through their collection of Demotivators - it gets even better.
Image: sleeping leopard - INDIFFERENCE: it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, but it doesn't take any to just sit there with a dumb look on your face.

Image: Climber on top of a peak - PRETENSION: The downside of being better than everyone else is that people tend to assume you're pretentious.

Image: A large order of fries - POTENTIAL: Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up.

There are many more and they are all amusing. It was a nice chuckle at the end of a long day and worth checking out - especially if corporate motivational art makes you want to vomit too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:36 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 27, 2003

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise 

CBS is about to air a film on Ronald and Nancy Reagan that does not portray them in a favorable light. Many have even pointed out instances where the content of the film is utterly false, for which they have expressed appropriate outrage. What I don't understand is the number of people who along with their outrage at lies and distortion have expressed shock and suprpise.

CBS does a hatchet job on the Reagans. Is there any reason to have expected otherwise.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:48 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 25, 2003

Trumpet Music 

Most bloggers will tell you they don't like blowing their own horns but I'm still new enough at this that the small triumphs that are probably meaningless to the grizzled veterans of the blogoshphere still please me. I took a look at a couple of sites recommended by my friend and blogfather Rocket Man. The sites were worth a visit.

Rocket Jones. and Colorado Conservative

What pleased me even more than finding a couple of good blogs to read was finding Hold the Mayo in their lists of links. Blogging is fun. Having your blog read and linked is great fun.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:57 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 24, 2003

Adjust This. 

The Senate is getting a pay raise. Their fifth in five years. The current Cost of Living Adjustment of $3,400 brings the five-year total to about $21,000. Leaving aside the rather obvious problem of politicians voting to decide their own salaries, politicians getting a COLA is absurd when you consider that politicians are probably responsible for the lions share of the increase in the cost of living in the first place.

There was a vote to exempt Senators from the COLA. The measure was defeated 60-34.

There has got to be a better smelling way to determine congressional salaries. Maybe we should let the House determine salaries for the Senate and vice versa. We could let the Democrats set salaries for Republicans and Republicans for Democrats. This would surely result in a display of by-partisanship rivaling September 12.

Maybe we need to remove the question from Congressional jurisdiction all together. Let the governors of the 50 states determine congressional salaries.

The best option, of course is to use the model used in the private sector, tie salary to performance. You could link changes in congressional salary to the budget. If the budget runs a deficit of 3 percent - cut congressional salaries by 3% the following year. If the budget runs a surplus give them a raise in equal percentage less an equal percentage to any increase in taxes.

Given the rate at which the government tends to spend, within 5 years members of congress will be paying in rather than collecting a check.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:16 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Frist Fight? 

With the nomination of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, it looks like Ms. Feinstein focused on remarks Brown made in a speech delivered to about 45 members of the Federalist Society at the University of Chicago:

In that speech, Brown said that "where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege, war in the streets, unapologetic expropriation of property, the precipitous decline of the rule of law, the rapid rise of corruption, the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit."

"Do you really believe that?" Feinstein asked.

Justice Brown's response to Feinstein's attacks was ""I absolutely understand the difference in roles in being a speaker and being a judge." She added that her comments were intended to be provocative for her audiences and that she was "simply stirring the pot a little bit, getting people to think, to challenge them. " She could have added that the above statement is absolutely true even if you only look at the state of public schools.

The idea of promoting judge who many consider a strong potential nominee to any future vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court who understands that government unchecked by the limits of the Constitution can do more harm than good in encouraging. Will the Republican party stand up and fight for the Constitution? I hope so. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:19 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 23, 2003

Burned Out 

Too fried today to put enough thought into anything to make it even minimally interesting. Wrapping up preparations for a major trade show, putting together a presentation, writing year end reviews - plus the regular work.

This is your brain.

This is your brain on too much work and not enough sleep.

There are 6 great blogs listed on the right.

See you tomorrow.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 22, 2003

Lies and the Lying Liars 

Like probably everyone, especially everyone with small children, I kept a watchful eye on the news coverage of the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. I was relieved, happy, and surprised when she was found alive and returned home. I cannot, and do not want to imagine what she must have been through. But now more than ever, this poor little girl has my sympathy.

Elizabeth smart has been interviewed by Katie Couric, and Oprah as part of the promotional effort for her parents' upcoming book. But Katie tells us we should not worry:

I guess different parents would make different decisions, but I think Ed and Lois (Smart) have her best interests at heart and I don't think they would exploit their daughter," she said.

NBC would not exploit Elizabeth, either, she said.

Bullshit - on both counts.

If parading your already traumatized daughter around the talk show circuit to boost the sales of your book does not constitute exploitation I don't know what does. And no matter what Miss Couric tells herself to the contrary she and NBC are guilty too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Broken Records 

Russ McGuire of Business Reform Magazine makes the clearest case I have read so far for how badly the major record labels have blown some very good opportunities on the internet.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:42 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


This Denver Post.com article highlights

This Denver Post.com article highlights a disturbing new trend in baby names: naming children after products. Some examples given from a review of Social Security Administration data include: Timberland (boots) Chevy (coincidentally there were 55 Chevys) DelMonte (vegies) Skyy (vodka) and even two boys named ESPN (pronounced Espin).

Raising a child is a profoundly personal thing, and it should stay that way. I think the people who crow that giving your child an unusual name is child abuse are being a bit hysterical. But the bottom line is parents should stop and think a moment that the name they give their child may seem amusing and clever to them but it could be a burden their child will have to bear for life. Maybe take a minute to consider John or Susan before you name your child Viagra.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:44 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 21, 2003

Name that Tune 

File this under the notion that somewhere someone is doing a study on everything. James Kellaris, a marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati has released the results of a study of what he calls "earworms." What the rest of the world refers to as songs stuck in your head.

The results of his findings were basically that different people get different songs stuck in their head for different reasons. There is speculation as to why, but no real answer. Also, no solution for getting that pesky tune out of your head.

I have been unable to determine who paid for the research, probably every taxpaying U.S. citizen. But whoever it was, if they weren't sure it was a waste of money before the start, they are probably convinced of it now.

Professor Kellaris has also done research on the effects of hold music. You'll have to wait for comment on that.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:56 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 20, 2003

File Sharing at Warp Speed 

According to a Reuters report from Geneva scientists have set a new speed record for data transmission over the internet.

CERN, whose laboratories straddle the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, said it had sent 1.1 Terabytes of data at 5.44 gigabits a second (Gbps) to a lab at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, on October 1.
The test lasted 30 minutes. To translate for the non-geeks: a Floppy disk holds roughly 1 megabyte. A gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes. (The hard drive in my system is a relatively small 20 gigabytes.) a Terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes.

The Reuters comparison is likely to give the RIAA nightmares:

This is more than 20,000 times faster than a typical home broadband connection, and is also equivalent to transferring a 60-minute compact disc within one second -- an operation that takes around eight minutes on standard broadband.
I am sure the scientists at CERN had something other than downloading Metallica CDs on Limewire in mind.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:28 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


October 17, 2003

iPod update 

I have a fascination with technology. I like cool things that do cool stuff. Earlier this week I wrote about the most fun computer game I have found. EBay

I have had some fun and some success playing the EBay game and set for myself the challenge of acquiring an Apple iPod for $50 or less. It has not gone well so far. And with today's announcement of the Windows iTunes, Apple's software for playing mp3's and for accessing the iTunes Music Store, I think my quest may have gotten a little harder.

I thought briefly about increasing my maximum but that is not a part of the game. An iPod is a really cool piece of technology that does cool stuff. If would be fun to have one but I am not suffering without one. It's a value judgment. It's an exercise in pure capitalism. I want to buy a iPod for $50. If no one wants to sell one for that price or the rest of the free world is willing to pay more then I don't get an iPod. So far in 19 attempts that has been the case.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:00 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 16, 2003

The Freedom Effect 

Critics of the war in Iraq have chided the Bush administration for the belief that freedom and democracy in Iraq would serve as an example and a call to peoples of other nations in the region. With the help of the coalition, and now the unanimous support of the the Useless Nations inSecurity Council, the Iraqi people are moving toward those ideals.

What effect has this had in the region. Uprisings, brutally suppressed, in Iran and now the Associated Press reports up to 150 people have been arrested for protesting and calling for reform in Saudi Arabia. The protest was described as "the first such large-scale demonstration in a kingdom that has been under internal and external pressure to reform. "

Freedom is a powerful force. It will be interesting to watch its effect on the Middle East.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:34 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 15, 2003

Copyright Defense 

I just read through what is now the almost weekly debate on file sharing, copyrights, intellectual property and evil corporations over at Hit and Run. I have read the posts on many of these debates and even chimed in myself on occasion. The postings usually run the gamut from outright stupidity to well reasoned thoughtful analysis. This round is no different. A lot of the same people making a lot of the same arguments. A couple of the posts stood out. One for its incredible wrongheadedness, and the other for it's passionate defense of the ownership of intellectual property.

The first was posted by someone using the I assuming approprite name Pirate:

Copyright is a temporary loan from the public domain.
That's right. Pirate wrote:
Copyright is a temporary loan from the public domain. (emphasis added)
It's interesting to consider the idea that every original thought floating around in my head, and yours, belongs to the public. That it is only through the good will of the public that we have any rights to the work of out own mind. I wonder how many other rights Pirate considers to be on loan?

I work as a Graphic Designer for a large company. Every piece I design is reviewed by our internal legal department. They are reviewing to make sure that their is nothing in the design that could jeopardize the company's intellectual property - logos, trademarks etc. That intellectual property is key to the survival of the brands we sell, and without it the company and several thousand jobs - including mine - would not exist.

As I was thinking over what I was going to post in answer to Pirate - and just how badly I wanted to write a viscous flaming attack, I continued to scroll through the posts and read this from Sam I Was (quoted in its entirety because I couldn't have said it better.)

You and your cyber-fetishists are so bound up in your anti-copyright mindset, so giddy about this Groundbreaking New Era Upon Which We're Embarking Because Of Computers And Stuff, that you can't even see the basic flaws in your own writing. Such as:

Such profit serves as an incentive to create and distribute more intellectual property, which is good for all of us.

Sorry, that ain't libertarian. That ain't about ownership. That's COMMUNITARIANISM. It's defined by the very words you use to support your position (see bolded text above), and you don't even realize it, so self-assured are you in your animosity toward copyright.

"Good for all of us." Not good for me, the guy who created it. But good for all the rest of you. And being the red-blooded libertarian you are, what's good for all the rest of you -- at the expense of my exclusive ownership -- is what counts most for you. Right?

You want the workings of my brain to belong to you and everybody else. For the "good" of all of you. What I want to do with it doesn't matter to you. The books I write, the songs I record, the art I paint -- every bit of it belongs to you and the "public," because it's "good" for all of you.

With all due respect... Fuck that.

The original expressions of ideas that I concoct are MINE. Not yours, and not the public's. None of this has to do with "money," or "profits," or "revenue streams." This is about ownership. Money and profits and revenue streams are all incidental to that ownership. This is not about a means (copyright) to an end (profit). This is simply about ownership. Of the stuff in my brain. Which I own. And which you don't. I control the stuff I own. You don't. My reasons for not wanting you to have a copy are none of your business. If I don't want you to have a copy of something I created, tough luck. If you think otherwise, it's because you've bought into a communitarian view of property.

This is all very simple. Don't get yourself all lost in a rhetorical world of "incentivizing" this or "profiting" from that. Copyright is about ownership of expressions. That is all. It is very simple. Quit trying to make it more complex than it is.

I'm getting really tired of this argument. I'm tired of people who think the mere existence of computers has suddenly negated centuries of human reasoning about the sanctity of copyright. I'm really tired of people who call themselves libertarians and conservatives while promulgating socialist views of property, and laying claim to my creations because they think it's "good for all of us."

Because, frankly, I don't care what's "good" for all the rest of you. My creations are MINE. If I want to give a copy to Jane, but not to Joe, that's MY decision. Not yours, and not the public's.

Posted by Sam I Was at October 15, 2003 02:04 AM

I have nothing more to ad to that.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:33 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 13, 2003

Treasure Hunting 

Ebay can rightly be called many things. It is an on-line flea market. It is pure capitalist trade. It is a world wide tag sale. It is the home shopping channel for geeks. For me, Ebay is a high stakes video game. The prizes are real, and the cost is real.

In the last year or so I have scored a few victories in the Ebay game. The watch I am wearing is an Eddie Bauer design from Fossil. I didn't need a new watch I had a perfectly good Swiss Army watch. The new watch is nice enough but not really better than the one it replaces. It wasn't the need it was the hunt. First find a watch I liked, then win the bid without going over a pre-determined limit. It was mine for $18.00.

My next win was something I needed - a new PDA. Stage 1 of the hunt pick a manufacturer. The choices were limited Palm or Handspring. (Now it's back to just Palm.) I settled on Handspring mostly because of the ad on slot and the potential for future Ebay wins shopping for unneeded stuff to plug in. I targeted the Treo 90. Color display - decent memory and a mini keyboard for entering text - no Graffiti for me. Also there seemed to be a good number of them available. To make it interesting I set a $100 limit. I lost out on the first seven I bid on. Getting outbid by $2.00 on one just seconds before the auction closed. Number eight was mine. Brand new in the box, $299 retail value for $98 plus shipping.

My next target was a leather jacket. Brown, bomber style, all leather. I hate the elasticized cloth around the waist and wrist. Spending limit $50. I lost one really nice one in the last few minutes, the second was bid well over my limit. The third was mine for $28.00.

I haven't played the game for a while. I haven't really thought of anything that I don't need but really want. But recently I have been thinking that it would be cool to have an iPod. Not only that but that it would be cool to have an iPod for $50 or less. The disc size doesn't matter. New or used doesn't matter. I doesn't even matter if I don't get one (I've lost 8 in 2 days). What matters is, the game is on.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:46 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 12, 2003

Spanking at the U.N. 

If you are appalled by the extent to which local, state and federal government attempts to control virtually every aspect of your life, take a deep breath, hold your nose, and look into the world of global governance. Global governance? Yes through an ever broadening tangled web of treaties, the United Nations is working hard to transform itself into the seat of world government.

A recent example of this effort is the attempted enforcement of The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on the people of Canada. the U.N. Committee on Rights of the Child has informed the government of Canada they are required to

adopt legislation to remove the existing authorization of the use of 'reasonable force' in disciplining children.
Fortunately the U.S. is one of two countries who have not signed this treaty.

I have seen a good deal of comment on this topic over the last few days. Almost all of which focuses on the wrong idea. Most of the debate I have seen focuses on the content of the decision such as this exchange cited in a World Net Daily article:

"When a child is young and cannot understand, a tap on the hand is essential for training," he said. "We have a wood-burning stove that gets very hot. It's ridiculous that I can't save my child from burning himself by tapping his hand away from it."

However, a member of the committee responsible for communicating with Canada argued, if the child "puts his hand on a hot oven, he will be burnt and he will not do it again."

That this committee member should have one hand placed on hot stove and then asked if they would have preferred a slap on the wrist is beside the point. The point is, no government - especially a self-appointed world government should be exercising that kind of control over individual lives.

For the record I believe abusing a child is probably the single most horrific thing a person could do. I think the punishment for anyone convicted of abuse should be to be locked away and have their abuse repeated on them daily for 10 years. As for the argument that most abusers were abuse victims themselves - that is not only no excuse it should be grounds for doubling the sentence. But the U.N. instruction to Canada was not about abuse, it wasn't even about "reasonable force."

That I have deleted several paragraphs form this post because it was going down the path of what is appropriate discipline for a misbehaving child points to fact that raising a child is a deeply personal thing. It is not something that should be micromanaged by government at any level.

The U.S. pattern of not signing on treaties of U.N. World Governance in preference to maintaining national sovereignty is heartening. It is bad enough when the U.N. tries to tell nations what they can and cannot do, when they reach into individual homes they have reached too far.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:33 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


October 09, 2003

Presciption for disaster 

US Representative Ron Paul who may be best described as the Don Quixote of congress - which is also probably why I am becoming a fan - has a weekly online column called Texas Straight Talk. This week's column is an excellent outline of a number of reasons we should not have a prescription drug plan as part of medicare.

He summed up the core of the issue this way

The new Medicare drug plan enriches pharmaceutical companies, fleeces taxpayers, and forces millions of older Americans to accept inferior drug coverage.  It does nothing, however, to address the fundamental reasons prescription drugs cost so much.

I have always believed that if you want to understand the true motives behind a piece of legislation you need to ignore anything a politician says and look at what the act accomplishes.

This plan accomplishes 1. Putting more money in the hands of rich companies that can be counted on for donations and spreading around a lot of lobbying cash: 2. Creating another level of dependency on government: 3. Putting the health of seniors (and the rest of the population) at risk by sticking them with inferior benefits.

The extra bonus for many corporations (read contributors) is that they get to eliminate drug coverage from their already thinly stretched retirement plans. And as the government gets its hooks deeper into medical care with the predictable decline in quality ALWAYS associated with socialized medicine, that will put an end to the pesky problem of ever increasing life-spans which again will take some strain off pensions.

This covers only some of the practical arguments and doesn't even begin to address the philosophical question of should government be forcing citizens to pay for someone else's medication or the question of where in the Constitution is the authority for the government to do so.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:29 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


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