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Hollywood and Swift on Religion December 31, 2009

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According to the internet, when I searched, after watching the movie tonight, full of lasagna and wine:

“They say there’s just enough religion in the world to make men hate one another, but not enough to make them love.”—Louis Cyphre, Angel Heart

“We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”—Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects. Collected by Pope and Swift. Found in Spectator No. 459.

Brittany Murphy Dead December 20, 2009

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Brittany-MurphyWow. Uh, I really don’t know what to say, but I want to say something about this. This is really an unfortunate surprise.

I cannot believe that today Brittany Murphy died of a heart attack at only 32 years of age. She was such a beautiful girl and a real joy to watch in movies such as Sin City. Condolences to her family and her fans around the world.

Picture used without permission, for commentary purposes only. No challenge to copyright is implied.

3G is Finally Here October 13, 2009

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As always, the up front statement: I really like my iPhone 3G. Previously, however, I have repeatedly complained about the fact that AT&T’s promised 3G simply wasn’t actually available in my neighborhood. AT&T kept telling me that it was, but that was fairly insulting when I was typically sitting there looking at barely one bar on Edge, and regularly getting dropped calls at the time.

In the interest of fairness, I have been meaning to post an update. Sometime in late September, AT&T finally put 3G in my neighborhood. Now I have the same coverage at home that I could get in the middle of nowhere at Lake Lanier last time I visited. Seriously, it has been really nice. I can normally get 3G at home, at my local bar, and all around my local area. My dropped calls have drastically decreased as well. With the exception of the periodic outages on the 3G network, this is the coverage I imagined when I bought the phone.

Then, this past weekend, AT&T sent me this advertising circular in the mail. Get the AT&T 3G MicroCell, they proclaimed. It will improve your wireless experience at home. Basically, you buy a miniature tower to keep in your house, at a price of $150, and it uses your DSL or cable modem Internet connection to give you 3G. Sounds like voice over IP (VoIP) to me. Okay, but it costs about $15 a month for a single phone, and increases the traffic on your internet connection.

Seriously, when I first saw that they were offering some sort of “mini-tower” thing, I thought that maybe they were letting you purchase this item that boosted their network. That seemed sort of clever to me. Except that wasn’t the bottom line. You weren’t purchasing a booster. You were buying a specialized modem that entitled you to paying $15 extra every month to get the service that they keep saying you are already getting.

Folks at AT&T, I appreciate the 3G finally being in my neighborhood. It is finally starting to seem like it could be pretty awesome. I probably would even have paid some sort of one-time purchase-fee to boost my personal access. However, I don’t like this new plan you have introduced. It feels like you are asking me to pay extra to get the service you already claimed you were giving me.

Why did FOX lie? September 18, 2009

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , 1 comment so far

Why did FOX News lie about CNN’s “Tea Party” coverage? That’s the tagline CNN put on the story that anchor Campbell Brown led tonight. And seriously, what an awesome freaking question. Why does FOX “News” seemingly distort the truth so often? Fair and balanced? Is that an FCC approved code for “bullsh*t”?

I am really glad to see CNN defend themselves against this garbage. FOX’s endless assertion that they are “fair and balanced” is laughable. Even most folks I know who are conservative defenders of FOX typically say something like “well, from their perspective…” or the like.

In this case, FOX falsely claimed that CNN didn’t cover the “Tea Party” political action march in Washington, D.C. Worse yet, they actually put out a newspaper advertisement saying so. This wasn’t just an offhand comment by some idiot with a microphone. It was a calculated move that managed to bubble its way up through the hypothetical “best” marketing minds of the FOX network.

CNN showed a barrage of footage of their reporters doing exactly what FOX falsely claimed that they had not done: namely, covering the “Tea Party” political action march in Washington, D.C. One reporter after another was shown clearly covering the crowd of demonstrators, even directly asking members of that crowd questions and displaying their precise answers. Anyone who watches CNN already knew this, but the evidence was clear. CNN had indeed given extensive coverage to an event that FOX fraudulently claimed that they had ignored.

If the FOX company is willing to engage in direct, intentional committee-planned falsehoods of that nature, why should anyone even vaguely consider the idea that their endlessly editorial slanted “news” coverage is anything resembling “fair and balanced”?

District 9 September 8, 2009

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District 9If you have already seen this movie, then you already know, or you disagree. For me, this movie was a real surprise. I saw a trailer for it, and expected it to either be some sort of crappy action flick or a poorly done alien conspiracy piece. Instead, I was treated to a gritty story with lots of views of humanity at its worst and best.

Hm, how do I say this without a spoiler. The moment that I saw the main character get sprayed in the face with some alien goop, I knew he was going to become capable of a certain thing that was already vaguely hinted in the movie. I did not foresee the layers that would unfold in the process. From the suggestions of voodoo by a villainous warlord, to the tender pleas to his wife, there were lots of little moments that made the film work despite a backdrop which seemingly promised absurdity.

The aliens were pretty freaky looking, and didn’t initially come off as believable to me. But somehow this ultimately worked for me. Once I accepted them as freakish and probably somewhat ridiculous they became part of the backdrop. Dropping them into abject poverty in an African shack town, and filming it all with a gritty, documentary style somehow turned them into characters rather than bad special effects.

But the aliens aren’t really the story. The story is a human tale of being outcast, of desperation, of unexpected honor and of the glimmer of humanity found amidst the depraved and inhumane. The actions of mankind are sometimes more alien that those of the aliens, and the aliens sometimes more human than our own kind. This could just as easily be a story of any number of genocidal events in human history. However, it disguises all of that with a chitinous hide and some suitably jerky camerawork. You come into the show expecting bugs and troopers, and instead you see the sins and crimes of the last century played by a puppet show of CGI aliens and faux documentary.

Oh Hello Iran July 30, 2009

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I actually saw news about Iran on CNN today! In recent weeks, coverage of the protests in Iran has been buried by exhaustive attention to other events. The media has latched onto stories about the death of Michael Jackson, and of a professor being arrested for entering his own home, to such a degree that it has blinded us to the rest of the world. It is sad that Michael died, but he is one person and the deaths of protesters in Iran are no less important. It is sad that a man was arrested for entry into his own house, but that doesn’t outweigh the murder of Neda by anti-protest forces in Iran. I know that the media has to make money, so they are going to talk about stories that sell airtime. I still think that the media can foster an atmosphere for positive change by bringing awareness of the world to our living rooms. Hopefully the renewed coverage of Iran will somehow make things better for humanity.

Uh, Wow June 30, 2009

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That last post was pretty weird. I am not really sure what I was thinking. It was late and I wasn’t in a good place, I guess.

I Still Have Things To Say June 29, 2009

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It is very likely that I will post something like this again someday. In the meantime, maybe this will be my last post and nobody will discover any words I have left behind. Whatever the case, I still have things to say. From trying to reconnect with my ex’s little one, Deva, to smothering my own demons, I hope that my last words will mean something to somebody as surely as I hope that my past ones do.

Apple Treats Me Right June 19, 2009

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The AT&T network is pretty crappy in my home neighborhood, so the fact that I was having trouble placing calls Tuesday evening just seemed like an especially bad evening. Of course the AT&T website claims otherwise. Last time I looked at their coverage maps, you would think my house was parked in their corporate headquarters or something. In the real world, I typically get 1 single bar, and the most I have ever seen here is 2 bars. I regularly suffer dropped calls, even when talking to other AT&T customers. I’ve pointed this out to them, too, only to be repeatedly blown off.

Anyway, Tuesday evening seemed particularly bad. Every call I tried to place, my iPhone would instantly flip over to “Call ended/Call failed” as soon as I dialed. Using my cable internet, I got online to research the issue a bit. AT&T’s advice seemed to be “drive 5 miles away and test again” so I did. I drove back to work, even though it was pretty late. At work, I range from 3 to 5 bars coverage (which incidentally is shown as exactly the same as my supposed home coverage on the website). When I got back to the office, I had 5 bars, so I tried calling again. Same thing – instantly flipping over to “Call ended/Call failed” again.

I looked up a contact number for AT&T online – I usually just dial 611 from my iPhone – and called them (using a work landline) to try to get help. To be fair, the tech who eventually inherited my problems tried to be really helpful. I think he stayed on the phone with me for well over an hour. In the end, though, he said I would need to go to an AT&T store the next day to get a new SIM card.

Early Wednesday morning, I headed to the closest AT&T store and demonstrated the issues I was having. The folks in the store were personable, and they tried to be helpful. They put in a new SIM card, and tested it out. Even with a new SIM card, the same issue kept occurring. Dial call, call end, call fail. They said it had to be a problem with the phone, and that I would have to take it to Apple.

Great I thought. This is one marathon issue, with no end in sight. I am just being passed from one person to the next. Ugh. Off I went to the Apple store with a sinking feeling in my heart. Would they pawn me off on AT&T and leave me hovering in some ugly circle of finger pointing?

No way. Apple isn’t perfect, but they were definitely better than that. I went to the Apple store, and it took me well over an hour to get a meeting with one of the Genius bar techs. Nonetheless, when I got that meeting they ran a couple of tests, told me something was wrong with the phone’s modem and handed me a new iPhone. Just like that. I walked out of the store with a replacement in hand and all I had to do was hook it up to my home computer’s iTunes to reload all of my apps, music and contacts. Apple took care of me. Now, if AT&T would just make good on their coverage claims.

Apple and Blu-ray May 27, 2009

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When my ex took off, she swiped my other computer, leaving me with only the personal laptop I had with me when I was out of town. Luckily even though my laptop is a five year old iBook G4, it still works fine for my needs. Word processing, playing music, web design, Photoshop, cellphone backups, I can do everything I actually want to do with it…

Except for playing EVE. CCP’s most successful already-released computer product, EVE is a beautiful MMO with graphic requirements that mean I have to play it after hours on a work machine because my home system is pre-Intel. If you know me, you should be aware of the fact that I like to keep up with everything that my company produces. From our White Wolf division to our CCP Iceland office, we publish and create a lot of stuff, so I can’t be an expert at all of it, but I like to try, and EVE is fun, too.

Given this situation, you might imagine that I have been debating an upgrade to a newer system for a while. Yup. I keep looking at new Macs trying to decide what I would like to get next. The iMac 24″ looks nice, but so does the aluminum unibody MacBook. Maybe even a Mac Pro tower. From my current iPhone 3G to spending most of my 10 years at White Wolf working with Mac systems acting as web servers, I am an Apple fan.

Whenever possible, I like to buy systems that seem likely to fill all of my needs for while. However, looking at all of the newest Apple computers, I keep noticing that they still have not adopted Blu-ray drives. Given that Apple has been a member of the Blu-ray consortium’s Board of Directors since March 2005, this seems pretty odd. Googling the issue a bit, it became clear that people have been waiting, anticipating and being disappointed about this for more than four years now. I even found polls asking whether the issue was affecting anyone’s brand buying decisions.

Well, put me down as somebody whose buying decisions are definitely being influenced. I would like to get a new computer, soon, so I can play EVE in the comfort of my own home rather than having to play it after hours at work (where I use a Windows PC nowadays). Despite more than a decade of favor for Apple computers, I find myself at least considering the purchase of a PC that can play EVE, and maybe, someday, when Apple finally decides to support Blu-ray, coming back into the fold, whenever that PC is out of date enough that I legitimately need an upgrade.