Tag Archives: Internet

Insight, paranoia, or just coincidence?

The other day I was getting irritated at a bunch of stuff. Since this is a frequent occurrence, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then a tiny little thought crept in and asked a question. Is all this stuff related? A simple question that begs some difficult answers. Warning: I’m going to sound crazy and delusional.
I’ve always been curious as to how the political right ended up being composed of the groups it has. These groups would seem to have completely different ideological and philosophical views. I never understood how the religious groups and the corporate giants could be lined up so neatly on the same side. One group is all about love and sharing and family. The other is about squeezing the last penny out of employees, customers, and anyone else who they think might have money they could take. Let’s look into this a bit by examining a few of our issues in this country.
Climate change is happening. Regardless of whether we’re causing it or it’s a natural phenomenon, we should be taking steps to make our environment more habitable not less. This is a problem for a wide variety of industries because it means they have to invest in new technology and machinery. That means spending money and not making money. After all, they’re goal is to make a good quarterly statement not look decades down the line at how much the weather might suck. It benefits them if we’re not to blame for climate change.
Then there’s the idea that God would not let us ruin his world. He’ll let us commit genocide, ethnic cleansing, forced relocation, and all manner of crimes against humanity, but not spoil the good Earth. It sounds crazy, but that’s the view held by some of the people in charge of our environmental policy. While I’m not suggesting we worship the Earth, I would think the religious folks would want to take better care of a world created especially for us.
So how do you get a group of religious people who live primarily in the Southern (read hotter) states who rely on agriculture a great deal to take a your corporate view on climate change. Well I would reach out to my friends in the media and give voice to the loudest groups who don’t care what they sound like. It would only take one interview question about whether they believed God would allow global warming (a tragic misnomer) or one article on a protestant website. They whip up a frenzy among the fundamentalists, and the next this you know they’re back big oil’s candidate for presidency.
Surely the information will get out right? That’s what the internet is for right? Well, not so much. Let’s talk about big media, the entertainment industry, tech giants, and parent’s watchdog groups. Oh my, where to begin? I don’t even know.
Let’s start with TV, America’s babysitter. Parents rely on tv to keep their kids occupied so they aren’t bothered by them. Unfortunately, not everything on tv is suitable for kids and monitoring what they watch is just too much damn work. So parents form groups of busy bodies that would find something objectionable (likely something their church told them was bad), and complain loudly about it rather than turn the channel. Seriously, these people go through movies and shows frame by frame (1/30th of a second) to find something that might look from a certain angle like a penis.
They complain to their congressman, the congressman forms a committee, the committee tells the studios to knock it off, and we get a decade of overly sanitized television. There are two things that are important here. One, these groups are very organized, extremely vocal, and can get people elected. Two, they are easily influenced and will not stop watching television.
That said, they are the problem. Any thought provoking television will either offend them or get them in an uproar about something, and if that something is directly tied to profits or re-election then it’s a problem. Now, the thing to do is proccupy them with a bunch of crap.
There’s a reason the top headlines are about sports and celebrities. It fills the gaps where meaningful information should go. I’ll bet at least 9 out of 10 people couldn’t tell me who the Koch brothers are, even though they’re a huge part of our political landscape. Big media plays along and in return the government helps them squeeze every penny out of mindless television, crappy movies, and overly cloned pop music. All so parents won’t have to be bothered to watch their kids.
I really believe that Corporate America is playing Middle America and the fundamentalists against the left. The worst part is how well it’s working. The political center of this country has moved so far to the right that Eisenhower and Nixon would be seen as centrists at best. There’s no proof of course. These scenarios are just what I’ve got going on in my head.
I can see a future in America that looks a lot like the present day Middle East. A huge divide between rich and poor with next to no middle class. Councils for morality and decency at the local level of government, and maybe even a house committee as well. My hopes are that this doesn’t happen, I don’t live to see it, or I’ve moved to another country.
This is likely my last post. My need to scream into the void is just that, screaming into the void. I have other obligations and an imploding personal life to keep me busy. Perhaps one day I’ll revisit this place and look back with relief that my fears were for nothing. Perhaps, and I hope this is never the case, I’ll look back and say I told you so.

Good bye
God bless
And may the force be with you



Sorry. What were you saying? I was having a moment with this thing in my hand.

Hi. How’s it going? It’s been a while. How are you? How are the wife and kids, and mistresses? Good? Great. Well enough of the small talk.
When I have a busy day, I get about three twenty minute periods between the madnesses to relax. When I first started, my coworkers and I would pass the time by joking, talking, or even watching a movie. These days that doesn’t happen. The breaks are still there, but the interaction isn’t. It’s not that the people are jerks or we hate each other. It’s the iPhone, well smart phones in general.
In a room of six people who get along pretty well, not one person is looking at anything that isn’t a tiny LCD screen. Six people who I know for a fact can pay attention, listen to what others are saying, formulate a thoughtful and intelligent response, and deliver it in a meaningful way, interspersed with witty banter and cutting sarcasm. Yet we no longer converse. The art of conversation has been bludgeoned by shiny little trinkets. Technology has changed the way we interact on a fundamental level, and it’s doing it quickly.
When I was in school, texting was done with pen and paper and passed from person to person until it reached it’s target. The only phone in the room was wired and bolted to a wall. Wireless communication consisted of real time vibrations in the air leaving the teachers mouth, traveling at the speed of sound to interact in real time with our ears. Before you accuse me of being too old to grasp the new tech, I just turned 33. However, my parents can relate with me because they had the same experience. My children will not have a land line, will not pass easily intercepted paper notes, or even understand how such primitive technology put us the moon. Which is where I hope they’ll be living.
Go to any restaurant and look for a couple. Now see how much time goes by before one of them goes for the phone. I’ll bet less than five minutes. Technology has brought the world closer by separating the individuals. We have unprecedented access to information, analysis, and commentary. What’s left to talk about?
E-books (we know my thoughts on those), laptops, and smart phones allow us to bring the things we use to pass our time alone along with us. Farmville, text messages, twitter updates, they all present urgent distractions from the most basic of human pass times. Interaction with other humans. We’re social creatures, and being with other humans is one of those things we just have to do. These days though, that physical proximity has been replace by our digital selves.
Our online identities are just as important to us as our social ones. We have near unlimited access to the lives of others. We know more about them at a glance of their profile page than with five minutes of conversation, and same is true of us. We don’t talk, we browse. We check the stats updates of people across town, across the country, across the world, while the person sitting across from you (whom you’re probably online friends with) is updating their status.
So I blame smart phones. They brought all of this crap out of the house and put it in the palm of our hands. Now, I’m not anti-technology, but I do miss talking with my friends. This change in our daily interactions took less than two years to become the norm. That’s how fast our world is changing.

Linux compatability = yes please

I bought a house in January, and in it was a room that was begging to become a library. I installed my office and book collection in this room, but I wanted something different. I was tired of the standard desk and chair arrangeable of the classic office. It’s not terribly comfortable and I always feel sucked into my monitor.
Here’s what I decided on. Upgrading my 17″ LCD mentor to a 40″ LCD TV and removing me form the desk with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo. I got a great vintage looking leather chair instead of a traditional office chair. The results? Everything I wanted.
Since I’m still new to Linux, I was concerned about compatibility. I shouldn’t have been. That was the old windows part of my brain talking. However, I did some research and asked around in the Linux community. I was once again pleased to find willing and helpful people(I’m sure you all know this, but I’m new so you’ll have to sit through it again). Little Girl of the Mostly Linux blog (WP) was a huge help.
I chose the Logitech Wave cordless keyboard and mouse set. It has a keyboard with multi-media controls and a five button mouse. Mac people, that’s five more buttons than your new mouse. What gives? Any ways, it’s literally plug and play. No problems, no install disc. I have a less than common distribution, so if you’re running Ubuntu I’m sure it’ll be fine.
The 40″ LCD TV is also working smoothly. You might have to play with your display settings though, this thing is bright. Obviously the computer isn’t going to recognize it as a brand name monitor, since it’s not. However, it doesn’t seem to care. The only issue is that my seven year old video card doesn’t output in 16:9, so I get black bars on the side. The TV will stretch it out, but then people’s Facebook heads look funny,
So now I’m writing this from the comfort of a plush leather chair, sitting ten feet from my monitor. I’m no longer sucked into my desk with my back to the door. I can see what’s going on in the rest of the house. My dog has more room on the floor. My Xbox is in here as well, so the wife doesn’t have to wait for the DVR. Everybody is happy.

Digital etiquet

In these days of everyone throwing all of their business on the web for the whole world to see, I begin to wonder about the rules of engagement. I’m not talking about hackers or identity thieves, but about the analog version of human interaction. Real face to face conversation with living humans your reach out and touch, and how our digital lives relate to our personal interactions. I ponder this because I don’t believe the web has been totally integrated into our concepts of personal space.
I’m a web savvy suburbanite, so of course I have a facebook page and two twitter accounts. The facebook page is for my family and far flung friends. I keep the friends list small and limited to people I actually know, and post stuff I would probably tell them over the phone (which I do far too infrequently these days). Basically, I manage my online interactions in the same way I manage my personal interactions. They’re the same thing to me.
For some though, it’s harder to be as selective online. If your facebook friends have 300 friends, surely you should have 300 friends as well. Accepting friend requests from people you hardly know is just the way it’s done. It’s awkward to deny a co-workers friend request and then see them everyday. Still, is it any less awkward when that new co-worker you just meet yesterday but accepted the night before comments on that Halloween party picture in your gallery? You know the one. Yeah… that one.
Where do we draw the line? How well should you know someone before you let them into your digital domain? When is it acceptable to discuss something you saw online (but weren’t a part of) with someone in person? Maybe that co-worker just wanted to feel like they belonged. Maybe they wanted to get to know the group better. How do we prevent awkward real world moments from being caused by digital openness?
Personally, I just post stuff I wouldn’t mind my mother seeing. She is a friend of mine on facebook after all. Are there pictures of me doing dumb things out there? You bet. Do I put them up for the world to see? Absolutely not.
When I get to that awkward place where a co-worker asked me why I haven’t accepted their friend request, I tell them the truth. I view social networking as a way to keep in touch with people I care about, not keep up with work scuttlebutt when I’m at home. Then I spend the next few months frequently denying their vein attempts at friending me (some people just don’t get it).
A few of my co-workers have gone so far as to delete their pages or all of their work friends. I wasn’t hurt or angry that they didn’t want to be my online friend anymore. My real life friendships with them certainly haven’t been impacted by it. Now when I say “What’s up”, I genuinely have no clue and the resulting conversation doesn’t seem redundant.
I’ve always advocated moderation in the online environment. I believe a person should cultivate a few strong relationships rather than many acquaintances. Social networking is a great tool for keeping in touch, but instant access to a relative stranger’s personal life is a bit much. On an unrelated note, follow me on Twitter @faultcode113.

Geek is the new black…

I like to think that I walked between worlds when I was in school. Not that I’m some sort of spectral wanderer. Just that I managed to associate with a wide variety of cliques. I played soccer and biked, was in orchestra, was in the smart classes, knew my way around electronics, and of course was into sci-fi (not sy-fy). Of all these worlds, the one I got the most grief for was sci-fi.
Well now things have changed. The two most most popular characters for the young are a wizard and a vampire. The newest Star Trek movie was universally agreed upon to be good. Holiday weekends are now celebrated with cook outs, beer, and a comic book movie. Amazingly, I hear the word “Frak” at least once a day, and not from my lips.
What changed? Well the geeks of my generation are now in charge of everything. We own the movies, tv, book publishing, and the web. Geeks have transformed the media into what they want to see. Sure, there are a lot of other fine offering on the table. Things like chick flicks and suspense thriller, but it’s the geeky stuff that makes money.
Geeks have convinced teenage girls that not only is it OK to date a vampire, but it’s probably better than their current boyfriends. Geeks have parodied the attractive. The drop dead gorgeous guys and girls in a movie are there to be made fun of or made into object lessons. Our heroes are now the technologically inclined FBI agents or the scientist who read a lot of comics.
In the last Die Hard movie, saving the country came down to holding off the bad guys while the geek fixed the computer. The geek is always the one who read somewhere about the weird stuff happening to the characters. Geeks have saved us from alien invasion, asteroids, plagues, serial killers, vampires, and zombies, and we paid $8 a head to watch. The conversion continues. My wife is now firmly in the grip of two geek oriented shows.
What now? I say fly your geek flag high. Watch the shows your kids are watching. You’ll be as cool as the popular kids. Say the word “Frak”. It conveys the same sense as “Fuck”, plus it confuses the uninitiated.
Enjoy it while it lasts. The cycle will continue, and geek pride will go the way of hammer pants and hair bands. In the mean time, I suggest a few geek oriented items for your amusement. “Leverage” on TNT is about con artists. “Warehouse 13” is a steampunk looking version of the X-files on Sci-Fi (I can’t bring myself to use Sy-Fy yet). Then there’s also “The Strain” by Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan. Think vampire, zombies, and parasites all mixed up. It’s worth the read, but will probably end up on film or TV.

The incredible shrinking world…

When I was growing up, the world was a big place. Making a phone call from one side to the other was very expensive. News from the other side of the world was available every twelve hours at most (morning paper, morning and evening news). Of course those were the days before I traveled to four continents and cordless phones where the height of communication technology.
Today we carry the world in our pockets with us. We don’t travel the world to see it, we bring it with us in our daily lives. Web enabled cell phones have reduced the equipment needed to explore the world from a jumbo jet to something the size of a deck of cards. 3G and broadband bring it to us lightning fast. We are more connected to each other now than I think we’ve ever been.
Twitter has allowed us to view the unrest in Tehran with up to the minute accounts of the very people who are living it. Not government approved propaganda, not network hyped coverage, but real living souls calling out to the world. Also interesting was watching the evolution of both the government’s attempts to shut the bloggers down and the blogging community adapting and getting through. There were people outside Iran opening up ports to help those in it.
I have friends all over the world, yet I can catch up with them as easily as if they were next door. Whenever I want, I can check my friend-in-Japan’s Facebook and see what they’re up to. Do I talk with my friends more? Well, no, but I don’t feel so out of touch or guilty for not doing so. It seems to me that our cell phones have so completely transcended their original purpose, that calling them phones is a misnomer.
Where do we go from here? I don’t know. I can’t imagine how much more we can be plugged into the world. At this point it’s a matter of preference. I can have alerts for anything sent directly to my phone, and be up to the minute. Short of having my phone beam me directly to the scene, I’m out of ideas. If the world gets any smaller, I’m going to start feeling claustrophobic.

The spirit of Democracy: all access govenment

I hear the word change a lot these days. Truthfully, there does seem to be an abundance of the stuff lately. Not all of it’s good, but it’s still abundant. The question is, how much of this change is real change? How much of it is going to fundamentally change the way we live?
Todays world is run by yesterday. The people in power are of a different age. The world has moved onto a new game, and they trying play by old rules of an old game. This is true of how our government work. It’s time to upgrade to a swifter more efficient government, and social networking is the key.
Quick fact: you (fellow American) do not live in a true democracy. You live in what is called a representative democracy. You don’t vote on every issue in our government, you elect representatives to do that. One reason for this is the speed of information. While information moves at the speed of light today, it moved at the speed of horse in 1786 (when the constitution was drafted). Basically the time it would take to propose a bill, get the word out, have everyone vote on it, count the votes, let everyone know how the vote turned out, then implement the bill, would take a year or more. One every issue.
So now we have our representatives and they have to vote how we tell them. Not exactly. They can vote however the want. If they want to keep their jobs, they should probably vote with the majority of their constituents. That’s why we have polls, yet another representation of our will. So now what?
We have a unique opportunity here to use the internet to directly impact our government. I envision a government site (call it G-space) where a citizen can view the agenda for congress on any given day, view the details of a bill, and make their opinions known. They could weigh in on any and all voting to be done. G-space would be the congressional version of facebook. A twitter like feature would allow for quick, to the point updates and messaging on both sides.
Everyday I see a blog about some bill being voted on and plea to contact my representative to tell them which way to vote. A dozen times a day I log onto facebook, twitter, and email to stay in touch. Why couldn’t I devote a minute to giving a thumbs up or down to a bill? Congressional leaders would be able to access the other end of the site, and see almost real time what their constituents want. Voting history and how often they voted with or against their constituency would be available at a click. Handy during election time.
There would be no voting by the citizenry here. That would disenfranchise voters without access to the internet. For these voters though, I imagine kiosks in all federal buildings dedicated to giving G-space access to anyone with a voter registration card. Security would also prohibit the possibility of voting on G-space. The idea is to give the voting public greater access and generate greater interest into congressional workings, not participate. For that we would still need election day.
There would be problems to overcome. There would have to be a way to safeguard the system against hacking, and keeping voter ID’s secured. Voter registration numbers plus a password should make it at least as safe as online banking. Throw in validation questions and government level system security just to be safe. Not having the ability to vote is probably the best security, especially since you can just shutdown the system if it’s compromised with out impacting our right to vote.
Our most recent presidential election showed one thing very clearly. The vast majority of our leaders are clueless about the internet and it’s power. President Obama certainly understands it, but I’ll bet if you asked a Senator to twitter you’d get a dirty look. Well, they’re going to have to learn. We can do this. We can do this today if we wanted.
Why am I throwing this out to the ether? I haven’t the foggiest idea how to make this suggestion to someone interested, who would understand it. Congress would probably not care to have their records easily available to a large majority of America. I’m not certain that they would understand the opportunity we have here. They’re not big fans of change. If you like the idea, spread the word. If not, share it with a friend for discussion.