Sunday, January 22, 2012

The power of voice

First off -- apologies for the lack of updates and general slowness; I've spent all this past week attending and in transit to conferences with my day beginning promptly at 5am and ending at 9pm, which is an exercise that requires Zen-like endurance (such is the scholarly life!).  All yesterday was spent luxuriously doing absolutely nothing of importance or note, and today, with the exception of more reading, catching up, and the Ravens/Patriots and Niners/Giants game (which is certainly something of importance and note) will be more or less the same.

In any case, as we are well aware, SOPA has been effectively shelved.  Such is the legacy of politics; when a strong enough force has gathered (be it money from supportive donors, or a collective response of pissed off internet users), it has the ability to strong-arm legislators into their guiding (after all, isn't that the PURPOSE of a representative and congressman?  To, you know, stand by the interests of the PEOPLE?).  Those expensive lobbyists for the RIAA and MPAA must be fuming, and that they are brings me happiness.  But again, that such legislation was even under consideration and, at one point, held a majority support, means that this is only the beginning.  No doubt revisions will be made supposedly "amending the language and/or provisions", a useless throwaway term meant to ease opposition but will in the end be no less damaging to our online freedom.  A great victory for civil liberties that will make the supporters of SOPA rethink their strategies.

If only, oh if only, such vigilance and momentum were reached when NDAA was proposed!  (I would say the same for the Patriot Act, but it seems the momentum was tragically reversed to support it -- after all, as Goering stated prior to his Nuremburg trials, "...the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same way in any country." (emphasis mine).  Indeed it does, and how can anyone hope to combat such a pervasive idea?

In the end, however, everything is merely an insignificant speck of dust in an infinite universe:

Funny how that works, no?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quick one for today

I'm sure we've all heard by now, but kudos to Google and Wikipedia for drawing attention to SOPA (try entering a search on wiki).  While the news the other day about the White House speaking out against SOPA was another victory, we nonetheless must keep up the pressure.  Until this piece of legislation is wiped from existence it will always be a threat, and the worst we can do at this point is become complacent.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's that time of month again

That's right, time for another semi-political rant.  Well, not so much a rant as it is a requiem, really -- effective today, Jon Huntsman has officially left the race.  Even though this was to be expected (he was polling at about the margin of error), I will miss his reasonable views on global warming and climate change, his policy on working with our foreign neighbors bolstered by his experience as a diplomat, and his tendency to not say things that would otherwise antagonize or mock the general population; he simply has no pull among the Crazy demographic (incidentally, which candidate does the Tea Party support?  Or should I be asking, what's a Tea Party?).  The one thing that has left me raising my eyebrow slightly is his extending support for Romney on his exit.  I would have imagined he would have chosen not to support anyone given his relatively radical views.  Oh well.  Maybe Huntsman/Colbert 2016?

Still on the topic of politics, I was replaying some old games today when it struck me just how they are on the verge of being eerily prophetic, not directly as in their exact storyline, but in the environments they set.  Consider the opening cinema of Metal Gear Solid 4 which I feel is one of the greatest video game monologues I've seen; skipping the more fantastic elements such as nanomachinery, advanced cybernetics, and self-regeneration, paramilitary corporations (remember Blackwater aka Xe aka Academi?)  and proxy battles aren't entirely fabrications at this point.  The other example that caught me off guard was in right in the beginning of Deus Ex; the second UNATCO soldier you speak with has a speech option where he says he wonders why they don't just wipe out the NSF, wherein JC will reply with "When due process fails us, we really do live in a world of terror."; my first thoughts were immediately of NDAA.  A bit further, when you interrogate the NSF leader, he says something along the lines of big corporations paying less in taxes than the assembly line workers on the floor.  I was a bit startled -- and this was a from a game that was released about 12 years ago!  Nanoaugmentations may still be a fantasy, but we may not be too far off from heading into the reality they perceived back then.

Anyway.  In other news, and because I'm listening to them right now, if anyone is in need of good weekend reading material and is familiar with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I'm curious as to who isn't), then I recommend reading Anthony Kiedis' autobiography Scar Tissue.  It's 400+ pages detailing the life of a rockstar, but it's a quick read (though you may find, as I had, yourself taking a break if only to refresh your mind and read something that doesn't deal with Kiedis doing drugs).  Best to read while he's not old and unsightly, like Axl Rose.

Finally, a reminder that lands untouched by suburban encroachment exist:

Alaska, '06.  You can see a boat and a house nearby.  Imagine life on a private island like that, but not the kind of Hawaiian paradise that's usually associated with living on an island.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I had much more to say about deeper issues, but I was honestly sidetracked by the Niners-Saints game (holy moley, what a rollercoaster) and so today will be shorter than what I had planned.

First: the increasing coverage of major companies (google,craigslist, and wikipedia, to name a few) expressing their objection to SOPA and threatening blackouts is certainly welcome news.  Not that it needs to be explained further why internet censorship is unjust, but the success here is the spread of information on the issue by showing visitors just how immediate the impact will be on their users if it passes; the result (and really, the first in a chain reaction) is that more users will contact their representatives voicing their disapproval, leading to increased pressure, opening up more opportunities for national exposure, and hopefully forcing legislators retracting their support for SOPA (and -- what do you know -- actually listening to their constituents!).

From craiglist's page on SOPA: Pfizer, Nike, Walmart, Dow Chemical, Tiffany, Chanel, Rolex, Monster Cable all support SOPA.  I can understand Comcast, Time Warner, ABC, but why would pharmaceutical, apparel, and watchmaking companies support SOPA?  "Because of lobbyist circle-jerking on Capitol Hill", while likely the most accurate answer, is not sufficient -- I am truly confused.  I guess I didn't know downloading minoxidil and overpriced women's apparel had gotten so out-of-hand.

Second:  Tahoe, '08:

I'm not sure which brilliant mind in human history thought to stand on a board and fly down a mountain with no regards to their safety, but I am glad.  The snow this season so far has been lacking in years past, so hopefully it'll pick up soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The ugly and the beautiful

By now, I'm sure we've all read the news about the marines urinating on corpses.  I won't delve into this much, as far too much debate about who's right and who's wrong has already taken place.  All I will say is that (and this is something that we all forget so often, no matter how simplistic and cliche it is!) generalizations, by definition, include outliers.  The extent of which these marines are an outlier can be debated all day; many of my friends are in the marines, and they are great people (conversely, I know many Muslim-Americans who are -- wait for not -- not militant!  The ability of some people to acknowledge one group of people while spitting on another is a true exercise in doublethink).

In less partisan news, one of my old hobbies which I hope to resuscitate soon is scenic photography.  All of my pictures I've taken that I feel are worth keeping were on a low-grade digital camera; next month, I will be looking to invest in a DSLR (looking at Canon lately; my friend recommends the EOS 5D Mark II, but it may slight be out of my budget).  Anyway.  Here's a shot of the Southern California taken...I believe when I was around the San Bernardino area?  I was visiting a friend at the time, about seven years ago, so it definitely has been awhile.  Southern California, for all its muggy smog and traffic, can look nice at night: