Train Of Thought

March 15, 2010

I was watching the new episode of “The Pacific” and I remembered the part in “Band Of Brothers” where the one guy was trying to get a German gun as a souvenir. I used to be a souvenir guy but my wife cured me of that. I used to want to get something everywhere I went. I’m not talking about finding something but buying the over-priced ones for sale at the gift shops. Aside from the waste of money it was also a clutter of stuff building up that was rarely ever looked at. Not the least of ll things this is one I’m thankful to my wife for.

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I Picked The Wrong Day To…

March 14, 2010

I picked the wrong day night to not be able to fall asleep. I usually have this problem when I’ve taken a nap during th day but last night I just couldn’t sleep. I listened to the new episode of “This American Life” and then started in on the movie 2012 before finally falling asleep. Because I hadn’t changed the bed side clock I didn’t even realize I was an hour behind until now. Ugh…

Return Of Alan Wilder?

March 13, 2010

Is Alan Wilder returning to Depeche Mode? I wouldn’t be surprised. Back on February 17, 2010 he shows up at the end of a benefit concert DM participated in. Then today I read on the DM site that Alan will be releasing a “new” Recoil album of old but “remastered” material. Alan’s departure from DM was acrimonious but it was also in 1995. I really don’t think he’d fully rejoin the band, even for just one album but I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he came back and worked on a song or two that were included in the next album.

Lawsuits!

March 12, 2010

My politics may lean to the left but I have a hard time understanding so many of the lawsuits that make it to the news. Today there is a proposed settlement for “Ground Zero” rescue workers who have reported illnesses. Now I know that some of these workers were public service employees who were assigned to work there (like firefighters) but what about those who volunteered? It seems to me that even with a modern day building that there would still be something unhealthy floating in the air after it was demolished by an airplane. What else could have been expected?

Now I don’t have enough time to really get into this right now but would a lawsuit be completely necessary if there was national healthcare?

Linux Schminux

March 6, 2010

Engadget has posted it’s latest “Entelligence” column this week about fragmentation of the Android platform. It might happen but it might not; who cares? Desktop Linux appears to be gelling around Ubuntu as a “ standard” (which I find confusing since I’ve tried to use it on numerous occasions and I find I prefer Windows 3.11 to Ubuntu) so why wouldn’t this happen eventually to Android? If Google were smart they’d require some baseline compatibility for apps and then it wouldn’t really matter. What do I really care? I’m trapped on a contract with a BlackBerry where I’m at the whim of RIM’s servers if they decide to crash monthly or not (really they do).

Autism In Time Magazine

March 5, 2010

I finished reading this week’s time magazine. It’s this cycle where Time usually comes in the mail on Saturday (sometimes Monday) and then I read it almost as fast as I can for two reasons:

  1. Another one comes in a week (and if I fall behind things might end up like my subscription to National Geographic where I fell so far behind that I finally gave up)

  2. I have other things I want to read in addition to Time magazine

So today I was able to burn through the latest issue and it had a couple of unique articles. First was the article about a German family that was granted political asylum in the US because Germany won’t allow them to home school their kids. Wait, what? Asylum so you can home school your kids? That’s crazy. ‘Nuff said.

The other was the story about how Jenny McCarthy is the most feared mom in America because the MMR vaccine is the only thing in the US causing autism but there are many, many roads to “recovery” (results may vary). I find it hard to believe that there can be one main cure but several “recovery” options. Now it may be possible that it is related but the logic of her arguments doesn’t make sense because it uses arguments akin to religious miracles rather than science.

Windows 7 Ultimate On A Netbook

February 28, 2010

Remember months ago when Microsoft offered their Windows 7 “House Party”? Well I joined in but no one attended (don’t cry, no one was psyched to attend an operating system party). So I have this copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (complete with Steve Ballmer’s signature embossed on the cardboard cover) and no computer to run it on. See, I use a Mac at home and after being unimpressed with the performance of Vista as a VM or the Windows 7 beta version as a VM either. I wanted to use it at work but I work for a software company and our software isn’t certified for Windows 7 yet and clients are 50/50 when they run our software on Windows 7. That leaves me with a copy of Windows 7 that isn’t currently being used. Add to this the fact that I just got a netbook last week and I think you can see where this might be going.

The netbook I got was a Dell Inspiron Mini (I bought it at Best Buy and they sell it as the Inspiron Mini but I believe Dell sells it as the Mini 10 on their web site). It comes with Windows 7 Starter which is fine with me. I didn’t purchase the netbook to perform high end tasks but mainly for writing and the occasional web surfing and video watching. But here’s the rub: Windows 7 Starter doesn’t allow the user to change the wallpaper. Are you serious? I can understand limiting or eliminations themes and colors and the like for product differentiation purposes but wallpaper? Now I’ve got an itch that I want to scratch but at $80 for an upgrade to Home Premium just to change wallpaper seems a little ridiculous to me.

But wait, I have a copy of Windows 7 ultimate that I am not using right now and it indicates that it “Includes Windows Anytime Upgrade”. I did this on my laptop at work: it came with Windows Vista Business and I had a code for Windows Vista Ultimate and the same kind of anytime upgrade. When I ran that it took nearly as long as installing the OS would originally take and that was on a pretty decent system, this is a netbook.

I decided to take the plunge after a little research on the Internet where the only negative comments about it came from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols who apparently decided to install it on an abacus that could, of course (knowing Stevie), run Linux flawlessly. Then, to put this netbook through its paces he decides to do things like encode videos using Handbrake and attempt to hack into the pentagon (or so I heard) but isn’t so pleased with the performance. Pretty much everyone else said there would be no issues upgrading to Windows 7 Ultimate.

I was a little nervous but I decided to go for it. I put in my Anytime Upgrade DVD and tell it to run. It finally said that if I was going to do this I needed to initiate the upgrade from the “Windows Anytime Upgrade” shortcut in the Start Menu. I ran the shortcut, it asked for my key, did something for about 5 minutes, rebooted and about 10 minutes or so later I was ready to log into Windows 7 Ultimate on my netbook.

It really was much ado about nothing since it was so fast and smooth. I’d recommend it to anyone considering doing the same thing.

I’m Back!

February 27, 2010

I know that I’ve been really sporadic about blogging (not that many, if any, have noticed at all) but I just got a netbook mostly for writing. I want to write some essays but I also have some story ideas that I’d like to work on and all of this will likely include some blogging too. I’ve even thought about publishing some of my writing here on my blog or on my “Anonymous” blog I’m going to keep. (I won’t divulge that location because it wouldn’t really be anonymous.)

One of the main things that I’d like to start off with is my fatigue with the shenanigans in Washington (D.C. that is). I’ll admit that I am an Obama supporter. I have been almost from the moment that I met him and my switch from being more conservative to more liberal started a few years ago when I read the the book “The Corporation” by Joel Bakan.

Now I don’t want to get into that story here and now (the two combined because I may later and even here). The things that I am tired of is the power struggle between parties that leaves the people in the middle in a crossfire of polarizing ideas and vitriol that most people don’t care about.

I’ve talked about this idea with a co-worker that is probably my politically mirror opposite but we’ve agreed that the current two party system is pretty unappealing to most people. When the Republicans and the Democrats get together and hammer out ideas and “planks” in their party platforms there is little overlap so voters are largely left to choose one side over the other. I realize that there are regional differences but I’m trying to not be overly specific in my generalizations.

What I think people need is a third party that isn’t formed based on just one principle. There are parties like The Green party, The Libertarian party and so forth that appeal to a very small base of voters. What I think we need is a None Of The Above party that appeals to the middle and doesn’t necessarily stand for the same things all the time. For example, the Republicans are usually in favor of more defense spending and the Democrats are usually against. In the 80s while we were fighting the Cold War and now with the War On Terror (such an unfortunately open-ended phrase) the idea of increased defense spending makes sense. In between those two periods the expenditures didn’t need to be as high. A party that would accept those realities and embrace them makes sense to me.

I also know that the defense spending argument is easy to make in hindsight it should have been a little more obvious and rational to tell the defense department they were going to get a little less in the mean time. They’d still get money for R&D and to maintain what they need to maintain but any group on a budget is always going to want more money and use what they get. This isn’t something that just the government does.

But the difficulty of building a party in the middle is that bold ideas that appeal to one extreme or another and those would largely be missing; the attention getting and appealing ideals present wouldn’t be there. Also any intrusion on the power held by either party would be perceived as a political threat and be attacked which wouldn’t be so bad as long as the purpose was served: the purpose of ending bickering for the sake of reclaiming power and returning Washington, D.C. back to a place where people compromise for the common good.

The Long Slow Demise Of A Favorite Band

December 29, 2009

I listen to a lot of music. I think my love of music started when I heard Slade’s “Keep Your Hands of My Power Supply”. I don’t know why but ever since then I’ve really enjoyed listening to, collecting and anything else you can do with music. There are a lot of bands I like but over the years some have held a special place in my heart: Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Stellastarr*, Echo And The Bunnymen, EMF, New Order, Leiahdorus, Anything Box, The Echoing Green and Jesus Jones to name a few.

Anything Box and Jesus Jones are two bands in particular that I have found disappointing. Anything Box started as a synthpop bad that most people would not even consider a one hit wonder but in actuality they put out several albums before proceeding in reverse order from a musical butterfly of luscious synthpop into a caterpillar of a band making horrible sounding neo-garage band dirges.

Many people get on the band’s site and lament this but they come across as whiny, especially since there are, apparently, people who enjoy their current sound. I’ve not bothered to try and poll people who claim to like them now and see if these are new fans or ones that have been with them since their synthpop days.

Another formoer favorite band of mine, one that has apparently decided to go from “good” music to nothing that anyone would listen to is Jesus Jones. I think about them a lot because I really liked their first four albums. Well Perverse (album #3) was my least favorite of the first four but still it was better than London. They went from a top notch band that blended samples and rock with the same skill that Dryers blends peppermint and ice cream for the holidays. Then they went from a bigger label to a smaller one (in the form of a Koch affiliated label MI-5 Records) and they started to put out sub-par garage music.

I’ve thought this for a while but it has been on my mind a lot lately because I picked up the live recording of Jesus Jones when they were in the US back in 2005 and was let down by their “modern” renditions of their “classic” hits. Then, to top it off, the album includes a bonus interview where the band proceeds to, in essence, indicate that things would have been very different had they had the time and education to do things they way they wished they had. What I really loved was essentially a “mistake”.

I suppose I should be grateful for what I got from the band but at this point but JJ and the band members have kept pretty close with their fans over time which makes it all the more painful for me.

Borders Has Apparently Given Up

December 27, 2009

I’m a fan of books. I buy more than I read but I love them anyway. My favorite place to buy is Costcobecause anything on sale there is barely more than 50% of the cover price. I used to love used book stores but there aren’t many in Utah (there are some in California but used book stores are apparently a dying breed) and none that are worth checking out. Amazon is nice, especially since I have a Prime account which makes 2 day shipping “free”. But at times I do enjoy going into a regular brick and mortar store to browse: not what happens to be in stock at Costco and not the virtual browsing which brings me to my dilemma.

Barnes & Noble (as I like to refer to as Banes & Chernobyl on occasion) has a really awesome selection. Their stores almost always have the item I’m looking for in stock (at least somewhere nearby if not at my preferred location, if I’m not just browsing) but I remember when B&N was Bookstar (or at least they owned Bookstar). This was a bookstore in the tradition of Crown Books that offered a discount on everything in the store. Not a discount bookstore that sold books no one really wanted anyway but nice bookstore that offered 10% off on all the books everyday. They even offered an additional 5% off if you purchased a membership card for $10/year. Crown Books didn’t offer a membership but they did offer a discount on all their books.

Since Bookstar and Crown Books are all but gone (and non-existent in Utah) there aren’t many choices. There are some nice locally owned shops (like The King’s English and Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore) but those aren’t very close to where I live. This puts me in a position where I like to shop at B&N for a number of reasons: the selection, the quality of the store, etc. But the full price of the books (so different from Bookstar) and the steep price of their annual membership ($25/year for only 10% off? Gimme a break!) means that I’d like a little competition.

Here’s where Borders enters the picture. When my wife and I were dating she had a Borders gift card she needed to use before it expired so I went with her to the Borders that used to be in downtown SLC. I was shocked at how much they were charging for CDs. At the time the only downloading of music available was on Napster so purchasing CDs was the only real legit way to get music and apparently Borders figured jacking up the prices was a good way to go. That turned me off to going there originally and explained (in my mind) why there were so few Borders locations compared to B&N.

A few years later I was in Park City and noticed the “cheap” bookstore was now a Borders Express. I decided to stop in and it changed the way I thought about Borders, for a while anyway. The store was a nice version of a discount bookstore with some interesting books (mostly crap though) at some very nice prices. Also, to boot, they had a reward program. I signed up, gave them my email and noticed that the marketing emails I received offered some pretty nice coupons.

As intended these promotions got me in the store because even Amazon doesn’t always offer 30% off a book I want which is when I started to realize that Borders has apparently give up and wants to die an ignominious retail death. The selection at Borders doesn’t hold a candle to B&N. And the coupons they send can only be applied to what they normally stock which means that even if I was willing to wait for them to order in the book I really wanted the coupon wouldn’t apply anyway. On top of that the last two times I’ve attempted to reserve an item online for in store pickup I eventually get an email back (the first time days later and today nearly 12 hours later) telling me they couldn’t find the item, even tough I had ended up in the store anyway and found more than one copy of the item I wanted.

Borders: blind employees, undesirable selection, bad prices by comparison, and on and on and on… I have read that Borders is circling the drain financially anyway but pushing coupons and other specials that get people into the store only to see they’re not offering anything even equally the competition seems to me like trying to die. I used to care but I’m realizing that they, and other people, just don’t seem to care.