Category: Uncategorized

Georgina Kincaid

I know I said that I avoided Romance novels.  Just give me a second to explain.  I had just purchased my Nook Color, and I was looking for something to test out the device’s electronic store.  While browsing said store, I found a cover blurb for Succubus Blues (written by Richelle Mead) from Jim Butcher.  He called it “an engaging read”.  So, I downloaded the free sample the Nook store offers, and I was hooked.  Within the first chapter of the first book, I was immersed in that world, and hooked on that book.  That almost never happens to me.

That being said, this is not a phenomenally written series, nor is it an epic story.  It’s just an easy read, with fun and engaging characters.

Yes, it’s romance, and yes, people often behave very stupidly for no other reason than because this is a romance series.  But the series has so much charm that I can’t help but forgive its shortcomings.  Plus, being about a Succubus, the series has a lot of graphic sex scenes that the author successfully writes in a way to make them worthwhile for the reader (unlike Kim Harrison, who seems physically and psychologically incapable of writing an interesting sex scene).  I was hooked on the first book long before the first graphic sex scene, so that’s not why I like the series, but it doesn’t hurt.

However, keep in mind that I do not recommend this series in audiobook form.  Truly good sex scenes are very embarrassing to listen to.  It was almost too embarrassing to read those scenes while in public (waiting for the dentist, and whatnot).  The prospect of having a voice actress moaning at me while at work…  No.  Sorry, but I’d much prefer to read the text of that in private.

There are six books in this series.  The sixth and final book, Succubus Revealed, came out fairly recently.  If you’re interested in an easy and fun read, the Georgina Kincaid series wouldn’t be a bad choice.

I’ve Been Fired

I worked for a document conversion company. We would take legal documents, scan them, then send back both the documents and the digital images of them. It was a simple business model, and one that I once thought was very forward looking, and effectively recession proof. However, there were two problems with that assumption: 1) It didn’t take into account how horribly the company was being managed, and 2) the company I worked for was actually owned by another larger company…that worked primarily in the housing sector.

They decided to cut costs. They said it wasn’t about performance, it was just that 20 people had to go, and I was one of them. I don’t doubt that management came down and said 20 people have to go. I just don’t know how much middle management had a say in who those 20 people should be. I know both of the managers immediately above me weren’t happy about seeing me leave…

Laid off, downsized…fired, terminated. This hasn’t ever happened to me before. I don’t like it. I’m rather upset about it. Though, oddly, not as upset as I might be. I had planned to leave and go back to collage after the Christmas holiday. I had just wanted to remain employed until then.

I was happier working at that company than I’ve ever been working for anyone else. There were problems, but little of it really affected me. I’d come in, put my headphones on, and do my work, while listening to some audiobook or podcast. I’d scan, or check quality, or fix images for ten hours while listening to whatever I wanted, then I’d go home. I didn’t have to talk to anyone if I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to run around, or do hard labor. It was simple, easy, and mindless. What’s more, it was at night. It was a nice job.

I suppose it’s time to look for better things. Right now, though, I’m still in the midst of the emotional aftermath, so I’m having trouble seeing past this moment. The future looks like a gaping black hole. Maybe things will look different after a little while.

Obama’s Failure to Take Public Financing, or How Obama is a Libertarian Democrat

I failed to address the topic of public financing in my last post, and I apologize for that.  It was at least important enough to acknowledge.  So, I’ll deal with it now.

Put simply: I don’t like public financing because I fear it’ll just be used as another way for politicians to game the system, but I don’t like corporate financing either.  Obama’s solution (to take donations from private individuals) actually manages to address both those issues, so I don’t have a problem with his decision.  I thought it was a bad political move, simply because it laid the foundation for the “flip flopper” label people are trying to saddle him with, but I think it will be a net boon in the long run.

I feel it would be inaccurate to say that Obama’s change of position here is part of a trend toward the political center.  One could make that argument, but I feel it would be more accurate to say that he moved more libertarian on this issue.  He’s still standing in opposition to corporate financing, but instead of getting behind a flawed government institution, he decided to do it himself, and do it better.  This isn’t something that one would see a typical Republican do (arguably, they’d be fine with corporate financing), nor is this something one would see from a typical liberal (who would get behind the institution for ideological reasons, if nothing else).  This is, however, something I’d expect from a successful Libertarian Democrat.  This is what I’d expect from a candidate who isn’t afraid to renounce a broken system, even though the ideals behind that system mirror his own.

I would argue that Barack Obama is as close to a Libertarian Democrat as we’re likely to see in a race like this for a good while.  The typical Democrat tends to overlook personal responsibility too often, and the typical Republican tries to legislate morality too often.  In contrast, Obama has consistently taken the libertarian position on those subjects, by arguing in favor of personal responsibility, and against legislating morality for others.

His Father’s Day speech about responsibility…  His support for gun rights…  His opposition to banning gay marriage…  His support of states rights regarding capital punishment…  If there is a greater narrative to be seen here, I don’t think it’s that Obama is making a strategic more to the political center.  I think the narrative is actually about Obama turning out to be more of a Libertarian Democrat (ideologically) than we originally might have thought.

Obama Is Not A Liberal Straw Man

There have been a lot of attacks against Barack Obama on the media of late. A lot of those attacks have come from the right, but a lot of them have even come from the left. The problem is that he’s being attacked for moving “away” from positions he never held in the first place.

Lets list them:

1. Death Penalty: The Supreme Court recently laid down a blanket ban on the use of capital punishment for rape cases that don’t end in the death of the victim. Obama came out against that sort of blanket ruling.

This isn’t a change of position. It can’t be, if only because he never before stated a position for this specific situation the court ruled on (as far as I know).

2. Gun Control: The Supreme Court even more recently ruled that the second amendment gives an individual the right to purchase and own a handgun. Obama came out in favor of this ruling

This isn’t a change of position. He even stated this exact thing during his primary fight with Hillary. The SCOTUS ruling essentially just restated the position Obama has preached from the very beginning.

3. Iraq: Obama stated that, after speaking with commanders on the ground in Iraq, he would “continue to refine his policies”. He is currently being attacked for changing his position away from the “rigid withdrawal date” he supposedly has.

This isn’t a change of position. He has always said that conditions on the ground would be determinative of exactly how he would go about the withdrawal. The overarching timeline has remained relatively consistent, but he has never stated that his plan wouldn’t be influenced by the facts on the ground. He was talking about tactics here, not the mission overall.

There’s really only one issue that he’s genuinely changed position on: FISA.

He’s come out in favor of the recent FISA legislation, which provides retroactive immunity to the telecommunication companies. He has stated that he doesn’t like the immunity part of the bill (and will work to remove it), but he’s willing to vote for the bill, because of the judicial overview provisions for spying in the United States.

I won’t even pretend to like the bill. I don’t. I won’t pretend Obama hasn’t changed positions on it. He has (though not as much as some claim). There’s only one thing about the bill that I’m cool with: If I’m not mistaken, this bill does not allow for domestic spying via data mining, simply because it requires a warrant for every instance of domestic spying (international communications are a different story). That’s the only reason I’m willing to let this issue slide, and I suspect that’s why Obama is given qualified marginal support of the bill (that doesn’t exactly qualify as a polar shift, but it is movement).

People on both sides of the political spectrum are accusing Obama of “moving” to the center because of all these issues. The problem is that there’s only been one move (and a relatively small one at that). Has McCain been attacked for moving to the middle during the general, because of his newfound enthusiasm for car batteries? No, because that’s just one issue and it’s not a huge move anyway.

The reason people are accusing Obama of moving to the middle is because he’s not proving to be the leftwing liberal people thought he was. Too often, people imposed their own opinions upon him, rather than listened to what he actually had to say. He became the liberal straw man for the republicans to rail against, and the liberals to deify.

After the recent Supreme Court rulings, McCain attacked Obama for wanting to put judges on the court that would take away our gun rights, and continue to vote the wrong way on capital punishment. Wait…What? That’s right. McCain accused Obama of wanting judges that actually disagree with his clearly stated positions. Why does that criticism work? Because Obama is a “liberal”, of course, and clearly doesn’t mean a word he’s saying on these issues.

This is the problem with the media, and even a lot of the American people. They don’t pay attention to what people actually say. They just listen to their own echo chamber, and base their opinions about all those outside that echo chamber on political stereotypes. Obama is not a Liberal Straw Man, and when the media treats him that way, they end up looking stupid.

The next time you hear someone say Obama has trended toward the middle since the primary, ask yourself what you feel that opinion is based on. Because, in my opinion, moving positions on one issue doesn’t make a trend.

Example of the echo chamber:

One of my best friends is a very liberal student of fine arts (she currently teaches collage English classes). She is simply one of the smartest people I know, and plans to start working on her doctorate in English some time soon. However, during the 2004 election, she and another friend got completely drunk, because they agreed to take a drink for every state that turned red that night. Being liberal arts majors, almost everyone they knew hated Bush, and assumed that no one would really elect him again. They thought Kerry would win by a landslide.

Meanwhile, anyone who paid attention to things outside the liberal echo chamber knew that there was going to be a lot of red on that political map, even if Kerry managed to win. 20 shots of anything are likely to cause serious problems, to say nothing about 31 (the actual number of states Bush won that night).

That sort of thing is happening all the time. It happened in the 2006 elections too. Those inside the liberal echo chamber thought the democrats would end the war in Iraq by pulling funding for it. However, the Democratic leadership—specifically Nancy Peloci—stated flat out that that option was off the table. Somehow, this information didn’t manage to penetrate the liberal echo chamber, and now they’re being accused of backing down…on a position they never held in the first place.

People like their stereotypes and straw men, because they’re simple. They also tend not to be representative of normal human beings.

Obama has always been a lot more moderate than either the liberal or conservative echo chambers have painted him (advocating personal responsibility among minorities, supporting gun rights, opposing mandates on healthcare, etc…). But any time he proves himself to be anything other than a Liberal Straw Man, he’s somehow “changing positions”. Frankly, I think people need to pay more attention.

Setting up Ubuntu as a Desktop / Media Server

Now that I’ve got a new computer, I’ve decided to use my old one as a media server.  As it terns out, doing this with Hardy Heron is only slightly more complicated than it is with Windows XP, but given the stability and security offered by Ubuntu that Windows lacks, I feel the minimal extra effort was well worth it.

Fortunately, the additional software I needed was in the Hardy Heron repositories.  The first thing I did was install MediaTomb, and edit the config.xml file to work properly with my PlayStation 3, which is a lot easier than it sounds, since they have comments within the config file that tell you how to edit it.  Then, I just set up MediaTomb with the browser interface to share and monitor the folders I wanted to keep all my media in.  That got me set up to access all my media through my PS3, and PSP via Remote Play.

However, that left me with the need to edit and download all my media on my old desktop computer.  I could sneaker-net all the stuff on my laptop to my desktop.  But, I’m a tech geek in the twenty-first century.  If I need to get out of bed just so I can watch The Totally Rad Show on my PSP, then something is very wrong.  So, that meant I needed to open up and share those media folders on my network in a more conventional way than MediaTomb’s UPnP server.  Fortunately, that’s doable via Samba.  I’d give a how-to on how I managed to get that to work, but honestly, I mostly just fiddled with it till it worked (nice that it’s simple enough that you can do that, though).  I installed the needed Samba and NFS apps from the repository, and just toyed with the settings till I could see, add, and manipulate content in the media folders on my desktop computer via my Macbook.

Anyway, the point is that now I can download podcasts and free online videos, and upload them to my media server directly from my Macbook.

My Desktop computer has been an integral part of who I am as a person for a very long time, so it’s going to take a little while for me to get used to using a laptop for all my computing needs.  However, there’s no doubt that I can do that now.  The Macbook does pretty much everything better than my desktop ever did.

Macbook as a Desktop Computer

As stated in the last post, I just got my new Macbook, and I’ve been toying around with it a lot over the weekend.  In fact, today I went to Best Buy and Picked up a Mini-DVI to VGA adapter for my Macbook so I could use it as a desktop replacement while I’m home.  Boy, did I get a shock.

I felt like I had caged my Macbook.  I had hooked up a separate mouse and keyboard too, so I was interacting with it completely remotely, which made me feel like I’d somehow violated it.  Like I was using it for the processing power, rather than the portability, and aesthetics it was designed for.  Sort of like using a woman for her looks, but not her brains…but in reverse.  It just felt so wrong.

I didn’t have many problems getting the setup to work.  It took me a little while to figure out that, to get the external monitor to act as the main monitor, I had to turn on the Macbook, and close the lid immediately.  Otherwise, it would just treat the external monitor as a secondary screen.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s really cool having two monitors running off the same computer, but that’s not what I was going for this time around.  I’m not sure I’d want to in the future, either.  It would just be another way to lock down the Macbook to a stationary existence.  I might toy with that a little more in the future, but I don’t expect it to be a regular thing.

I have no doubt that the Macbook would have made a great Desktop replacement.  As I mentioned before, it runs World of Warcraft a hell of a lot smother than the Desktop I have now.  However, I think I like the portability too much to just set it aside, and use it like a computer tower.

I wish the weekend was longer, so I could keep experimenting.  I learn something new almost every time I turn on the laptop.  I’m really liking OS X so far.

My New Macbook

I got my new Macbook today, and I’m having a lot of fun playing with it.  I’m typing this on it right now, as a matter of fact.  Though I’ve only had it for a few hours, I’d like to go over some of my first impressions.

The Macbook doesn’t come with iWork, or MS Office, so I installed OpenOffice.org instead.  I really only ever use these office suites for the word processors anyway, so it’s not a big deal to me.  The only problem is that OpenOffice seems to take longer to start up under OS X than it does in any of the other operating systems I’ve used it in.  I haven’t actually timed it, but it feels slower to start.

Also, I’ve had some trouble getting the Macbook set up to recognize the wifi network in my apartment when I start the computer.  It might be that I didn’t set it up properly when the OS was walking me through the initial setup.  If that’s the case, it’s my fault, but I’d still like to find a way to fix this little problem, so that I don’t have to manually set it up by going through the diagnostics walkthrough every time I turn on the computer.

Otherwise, everything seems to be going swimmingly.  Overall, this computer is a lot faster than my desktop.  I installed World of Warcraft to test the graphics capabilities relative to my old desktop PC (WOW is the only game I have that’ll install on a modern Mac), and I ended up getting more than double my usual frame rates.  Given that the Macbook I got is only using an integrated Intel graphics chip, that should tell you something about the desktop PC I’ve been struggling with for the past few years.  But also, I think it says a lot for how much CPU power this little laptop is packing (2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo).

I also installed Firefox without any problems, and it seems perfectly fine.  Back when I was listening to Paul Thurrott complaining about Firefox not using any special skins for Windows Vista, I just thought he was being annoying.  Now, I come to find that that seems to be exactly what Firefox has been doing for OS X.  The default theme for Firefox in OS X seems almost identical to that of Safari.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to do something similarly customized for Vista.  I understand why they don’t do it for linux (there are too many different desktop themes in linux), but Vista has a relatively uniform theme overall, so I’d assume they’d want to do something that made Firefox look like it belonged.  Oh well, it’s not like there aren’t custom themes to download.

Speaking of web browsers, I love the fact that flash works properly in OS X.  The crappy flash in Linux has been annoying me for quite a while now.  It’s nice to have a Unix based system with good flash video while web surfing.  I can finally watch hulu full screen without loosing frames (or booting up into Windows).

Spaces, which is Leopard’s version of Linux’s multiple desktops, seems to work fine.  I honestly don’t think Leopard handles multiple desktops as seamlessly as Linux does with compiz fusion.  However, it’s arguably better than the way KDE handles it by default, so one could make an argument either way.  I’m confident of one thing, though: it won’t be long before Microsoft hops on the multiple desktop bandwagon too.  With the exponential increase in multitasking capabilities of modern computers (with more ram, and multi core possessors), it won’t be long before multiple desktops become more than just a convenience for high end power users; it’ll become the norm.

Overall, I’m really enjoying my first real experience toying around with OS X.  I don’t think I’ll be installing a different OS on this computer for a while.  I want to get used to OS X before I start experimenting with anything else.  I’m looking forward to all the things I should be able to do, now that I have a decent portable computer.