12.22.2007

Earlier this year, I heard a story on NPR's "This I Believe" series, where individuals write short stories about beliefs and values that guide their lives.

This story was from a Chinese man named Yinong Young-Xu, and it has stuck with me. I think about it often. Here is his essay:
I believe in our innate potential for brutality.

When I was 6, in the streets of Shanghai, near the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I watched a parade of trucks carrying political dissidents on their way to be publicly executed. At the front of each truck was a young man, roped from head to toe, wearing a sign that said "Counter-revolutionary." If not for that, you would have had trouble guessing what the event was. There was an air of festivity; thousands of bystanders were laughing, talking, gesturing and pointing at the prisoners. The whole population of Shanghai must have been there. It was like a traditional Chinese New Year's celebration — except the city was celebrating its own brutality.

I believe that we are brutal because innocence can be corrupted, like mine was as a 6-year-old in a time of revolution. When I entered first grade, I started to wave flags, denounce the politically fallen of the day and shout, "Death to counter-revolutionaries!" My friends and I did not want to miss any of the meetings where political dissidents were publicly tortured and humiliated. That was entertainment for us, just the way movies are for American kids.

Science has taught us that normal genes in cells can be damaged or mutated to become deadly "oncogenes" that result in cancer. I believe brutality is a disease just like cancer; each and every one of us is at risk, including me. I used to fantasize about revenge against the Japanese for the atrocities they committed against the Chinese in World War II. Once I reduced an utterly innocent Japanese girl to tears. I said many cruel things and couldn't stop the venom from pouring out even though I had already begun to feel sorry for her. When our better instincts are suppressed, isn't that the beginning of brutality?

I am fortunate. I was too young to be a Red Guard where my brutality would have been codified. And I had a grandmother who showed me the value of kindness. My own capacity for brutality has never been fully tested. But I believe it is always there.

We're taught not to smoke in order to prevent carcinogens from damaging the genes in our cells. I wish we could learn to prevent hatred from forming and brutality from actualizing. I teach my children that hitting is not allowed, period. I encourage them to be compassionate, to aid those in need and to stand up for the weak. Most of all, I try to be vigilant over the purity of my motives and cautious about my actions. I believe I must guard against my own potential for brutality and the mutation of my own humanity.

11.24.2007

Just saw The Mist with Christian on a little date we went on. I believe it is the best Stephen King movie I've ever seen. Also it was finally one where I wasn't disappointed with the ending.

The movie isn't so much scary as it is disturbing and shocking. The entire audience was reacting to the movie. They even applauded at an event in the movie at one point!!

Very very good. Actually worth paying to see.

11.17.2007

I've been doing a lot of searching, reading, and investigating into the 2008 presidential candidates. Many of you know that I feel like American values are slipping away as we lean more and more towards a society where liberties and power are freely given up, in the name of fear, security, and politics. What scares me is how many people aren't willing to stand up and demand more from our government and demand that their liberties, and the liberties of others, be respected.

Let me be extremely upfront. Speaking out about your government is not un-American. Not speaking out about your government, and not allowing others to speak out is what is un-American.

Most people vote based on issues. But, I am going to attempt something different. I am going to vote on someone who I think will bring about the most change. I'm tired of seeing a 50/50 split of Americans when in fact, most people agree about most things. This clear majority is broken up by the major parties to convince them to vote one way or another in order to keep the parties in power. It is a horrible system.

So, what I will do is evaluate all the candidates based on who can unite the country, bring about the most shame on the US congress for bringing big business into our government, and who has the best character.

Character is one of the most important to me because I feel like along with repairing relations between our government and the American people, the next President will need to restore relations and credibility with the rest of the world.

So, where am I? Well, so far I like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama. You might say "Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich!!! These guys are complete polar opposites!!". Yes, that's true. But again, I'm not voting on issues. I'm voting on change and character. Please watch all the videos below. I believe they highlight things that people should be aware of and that they should have the courage to think about ON THEIR OWN!

Ron Paul is a Constitutionalist/Libertarian who is running as a Republican. I love what is going on in his campaign because he is turning heads big time by holding true to what it means to be a conservative. He is especially gaining traction with young people. Young people who aren't indoctrinated into thinking like a Republican or a Democrat are actually listening to what he has to say, and many are latching on. I think that's great and that is why I am considering to give him my vote. I don't agree with all of the libertarian stances (particularly with Net Neutrality), but I believe some of the more extreme ones will be filtered out by the people via the congress. At the very least though, his moving up in the polls and fund raising should be an eye opener for many Americans and many politicians, particularly within the Republican party.

A couple of great videos featuring Ron Paul:






Next up, is Dennis Kucinich, who I don't particularly agree with on many things. I like him because he is the only one on the democratic side who has consistently voted for all the things that the Democrats now claim they stand for. They are now anti-war, even though they all voted for it and continue to fund it. They are now anti-Patriot act, even though most voted for it. I applaud him for being so bold to disagree with them and pointing out their shortcomings. I want him to surge in the polls if for no other reason than to wake up the Democrats the same way that Ron Paul might wake up the Republicans.





Lastly, I leave Barack Obama in the running because I believe he would have strong credibility with the rest of the world, including the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, and because I believe him to be of strong moral character. I especially like the interview he gave at Google where he talked about making government more transparent and highlighting all of the lobbyist and special interest influence on the congress. He wants to use openness and technology such as the internet to let Americans see for themselves what their congress is really doing and bring shame upon those who inject language protecting big business and pork barreling laws. A few videos you should watch:







I like that last one because even though she is specifically asked 3 times to specifically answer how she would fix social security, she only says she would form a bi-partisan commission. I hope at the very least that Clinton supporters would admit that she is NOT going to bring the country together. She is very easily the most divisive person in all of politics with almost half of the country hating her guts. I hope that Clinton supporters would at least admit that and also that she is a career politician. Now, if you are supporting her because you want the Democrats to win using the same tactics they always have, that is one thing. But if you claim she will bring about change, and bring the country together, you are just talking out of your rear-end.

Do your own research. Don't listen to who the parties say are in the lead. Be tolerant of other people's viewpoints. Be mindful of liberty and privacy. Be courageous enough to think for yourself. This is just too important.

10.05.2007

For those of you who thought I was joking about Comcast broadband running at dial-up speeds, these speeds are what I have been dealing with _all_night_!!!

9.0 KB/sec... isn't that nice? Comcast offers dial-up speeds for only $50 per month!

10.02.2007

frys.com customer service just called about the complaint I filed with the Better Business Bureau. They apologized, refunded my shipping amount, and told me they are trying to roll out "ship to store" capabilities which let you get the internet price but pick up at the store.

Not too bad. I guess I'll take Frys out of first place for who I hate the most and bump Comcast up to the top.

9.23.2007

Here is some interesting viewing for those who don't believe there is any risk by having huge corporations control your internet, and your tv.

Comcast Censors the news

This is why it is so important to be in favor of net-neutrality. If you are unfamiliar with net-neutrality, it basically means that people providing internet service cannot give favor to some sites over others. For example, if Comcast decided to get in bed with MSN, you might see MSN sites and services at fast speed, and competitors at a degraded speed.

Watch this video for a good explanation of what net-neutrality means.

This has huge implications now that the internet has become the worlds largest free speech medium. If we don't stop corporations from imposing non-neutral service, our only hope will lie with the government... and we don't want them running the internet either!

Support net-neutrality.

9.22.2007

I don't know who I hate more... Comcast, or Fry's.

Ever since my earthlink cable internet got converted over to Comcast, my internet service has went down the crapper. Web pages used to be fast. Downloads were really fast. Ping times were great. And I hardly ever had outages.

But, now things are Comcastic. Comcastic apparently means slow webpages, constant dropouts, high prices, and a monopoly ensuring I have no other choice for cable or cable internet.

Ever since the change, I now receive internet that loads webpages exactly the way they loaded when I used dial-up internet in the 90's. It is absolutely abysmal. I sure hope I can get some fiber internet and cable soon. I hate all the monopolies in this country!

I enjoyed reading about this guy's comcastic experience.

But, they are in second place. First place is handed to the company who not only doesn't deliver the products you buy (like comcast), but also engages in deceptive practices and ultimately has incompetent support.

Fry's is a huge electronics retailer that loves to lure people in the stores with extremely cheap, low quality electronics, and then inundates them with overbearing salespeople and confusing, slow rebate offers.

This is bad enough. I shopped around for an hour in there once finding a cart full of things I needed and then went to buy the laptop I had found on their website. I got ready to checkout and they quoted a price for the laptop significantly higher than what I saw on the website. I pointed out this was wrong and showed the sales rep the printout from their website. He then quickly informed me that they didn't honor the prices on their website.

That's right. They don't honor the prices on their own website. He started to explain that they could sell things more cheaply online than in the store. I quickly told them that I was sure they could because they wouldn't have to pay people like him to walk around in tuxedo shirts and harass people.

But it gets worse. I decided to actually buy something off of their website. I was looking for a new TV, and found a good deal (read "bait") on their website. I ordered it. Two days later I received this email (read "switch"):

Thank you for your order. We apologize but the item(s) you ordered are currently out of stock and we are unable to provide a definite ship date at this time. However, we continually receive new merchandise in our warehouse and we hope to fulfill your order within the next thirty days or sooner if possible.

Nice. This wasn't stated when I ordered the TV. But now it was on backorder. I grumbled, but left it alone.

A week passes and still the Fry's order status page reports "Back Ordered". I call customer service. The rep tells me that they don't know when it will ship, but she can have the manager check and send me an ETA. Great. Do that.

Another week passes. Still nothing! I call again. "Your rep promised me an email and I didn't receive anything. What's going on?"

The second rep says "I don't know why you didn't receive it. I will request it again."

ANOTHER WEEK PASSES! Three weeks. Still nothing. No emails. No status change. No hope.

I called again this morning to give them an earful. I told the girl on the phone that I thought their business was deceptive and that they appeared to be incompetent. I explained how every other sales company I've worked with has always worked hard to communicate with me and follow through with their promises. I told her to mark every check box and fill in every box she could to explain how upset I was and how horrible my experience has been.

I also decided to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I'm sure that won't do much, but maybe if enough people do. If you have issues with Fry's, please file a complaint with the BBB!

9.16.2007

Got a few things done yesterday. Washed both of the cars. Cleaned my gun. Sprayed for bugs.

We have a spider situation in our yard that is now a little out of control. It looks like spider-man lives in our backyard. I sprayed with 3 bottles of 50% Malathion. I think this will kill tons of bugs, but I don't think it will hurt the spiders at all. I confirmed that this morning... most spiders had completely rebuilt their webs somewhere else, and the huge banana spider up in the tree just went right back to her web.

So, after some research this morning on pesticides that do kill spiders, I decided to buy some of this stuff. It is called "Demon WP" and it is one of the most common pesticides used by professional bug people. It is labeled "Professional Use Only" and is not sold in some states, which means... I'm excited. I bought a huge 1 pound jar of this stuff which makes about 50 gallons. I think I'm going to dress up like John Goodman (the exterminator in Arachnophobia) once I get this stuff in :)

9.13.2007

We didn't even receive much rain! The storm made landfall a considerable distance from where they had predicted 12 hours ago. Man, One more reason to not trust those predicted paths for hurricanes.

9.12.2007

Sounds like Tropical Storm Humberto is about to bear down on us. Will probably have to power down all the computers soon.

9.11.2007

I installed Ubuntu Gutsy Tribe 5 (an alpha release) on my ASUS G2S. Things all seem to be working except the NVIDIA driver. Actually, it looks like the NVIDIA driver is working, but I just can't get the xorg.conf settings correct. Not sure what the problem is. For now, I fell back to running the VESA driver at 1920x1200.

Wow that's a big resolution. It really hits home when you start typing in a terminal :)

Sound seems to work. Also, wireless is detected and is working, but for some reason, my encryption key is not being accepted for my WEP encrypted wireless network. I haven't tried my network without encryption yet, so I don't know if this is a Ubuntu software problem, a configuration problem, or a wireless driver problem. It does detect the wireless networks though, so it seems like the wireless driver is working.

If anyone gets their G2S running with the NVIDIA proprietary driver, please let me know.

9.09.2007

I had a great birthday today.
After playing around with Windows Vista Media Center on my new laptop, I must say, I have been impressed. There are lots of things that can be annoying when running mythTV: the lack of drivers on linux, the fact that no mythTV front-ends/clients exist for windows, and the latest one, that the TV listings are no longer free.

So now I am in a bit of a pickle. Do I pay for a mythTV listing service and spend the time to upgrade my mythTV server, thus supporting free and open software, or pay upfront for a copy of Vista and give media center a shot. I really don't know at this point.

I think I would have went with Media Center pretty easily except for one thing. In the latest version of Media Center, I can't play DVD files off the network. The only reason I can think of for why Microsoft would disable this functionality is due to movie industry pressures. This alone makes me scared to start using their products. Only after I added a separate piece of software called My Movies was I able to list and play DVD files over the network.

Not only was I able to play them, but My Movies (which is free) also categorized them, downloaded DVD cover images for them, and organized data for all the movies including directors, actor and actresses, MPAA rating, etc. Pretty amazing!

So, this got my wondering... why isn't this part of Media Center to begin with? This seems so in tune to what people want to do with their movie collections (same as with their music collections), so why do I have to add on a separate package to do this?

I'm not sure what I'm going to do on the TV front. Maybe I'll give MediaPortal another shot. I dunno...

9.08.2007

I've got a new work laptop. It's an ASUS G2S. (Image courtesy of notebookreview.com)

The laptop is awesome, although it has some sort of weird power problem. At first, I was having lots of problems with windows Vista... audio popping, bad performance, video lagging, etc. But, after a bios update and reinstalling the INF update for the chipset, things are much better. The only thing left is this weird power problem, which may have been my problem all along.

The issue is that sometimes the audio popping and lagging and bad performance returns. The weird part is that if I unplug the power adapter and run off of batteries, everything runs great. Plug the power back in... horribly jumpy jerky performance again.

Power cycling with the power already plugged in seems to reduce the likelihood of this occurring. Once I get into Vista without the problems, I can go on and off of battery power all I want and things run great.

9.07.2007

My Saints lost last night. Boy did they lose. They fell apart.

Of course, Peyton Manning just seems superhuman. It's like watching Joe Montana all over again.

8.19.2007

Awesome movie: The Prestige (2006). Check it out.

No wonder I love it. It is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the same guy who wrote and directed Memento which is one of my all-time favorite movies. If you haven't seen that one, definitely check it out as well.

Also, he wrote and directed Batman Begins and the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

4.02.2007

Why does this make me depressed about our society?

http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/global/contentPage.jsp?assetId=P4110014

And the image at the top... geez... it makes me sick to my stomach.

Update 9/9/07: Well, they've changed the picture to be some young, childless people out watching a football game. But the picture _WAS_ a picture of a mom, dad, and kids, running out to the beach, with the dad holding his portable satellite TV system.

3.15.2007

From time to time, I just like to plug what I believe is a great product. Today, it is the coleman stove.

What I love about the good ol' liquid fuel coleman stove is how much it hasn't changed since the late 40's. You can look at this page and see just how similar those outdoor stoves are to the new ones.

The one I particularly like is the Coleman duel-fuel stove. The reason I love it so much is beause it is an awesome camp stove, but also because the design is tried and true with replacement parts being highly available. The other thing that really makes it worth the money in my mind is beause of the capability to also run it on unleaded gasoline.

Why? Well, with the threat of hurricanes, terrorists, floods, whatever, everybody is looking into emergency preparedness. And by getting this thing as a camping item, you are also getting a great emergency item. Even if you don't have any coleman fuel, you can still siphon gas from a car or truck and cook, boil water, even use it as a heater.

I like mine. We really enjoyed it on our last camping trip.

1.21.2007

Oh well.

I have to admit that I did have my doubts that the Saints could beat the Bears, but it turns out that they really could play with them. The proved to the Bears that they could move the ball against their offense, and they stopped their offense many times, holding them to a field goal 3 times after they were handed the ball in Saints territory due to a turnover.

So, they played with more potential than I thought, and the weather wasn't really an issue like I thought. But still, for some reason, after the safety in the 3rd quarter, they fell apart. I'm not sure why, and I can honestly say that it didn't look characteristic of they way they have played this year. It looked much more like an inexperienced team playing in the NFC championship type issue.

But... it's over. And there is always next year. Us Saints fans are no strangers to waiting for next year :)

Who Dat!

1.20.2007

ok, i fixed the clock problem... turns out I had to run tzconfig as root instead of running tzselect.
I have been building/tinkering with a HTPC in my house for a few months now. My initial goal was to get a really nice mythTV setup in the house, but I have come to realize how young mythTV and linux drivers are (when it comes to HDTV that is... many of the regular tuners work much better since you can actually do decoding on the card and the hardware issues are much more familiar to developers).

After trying a few different mythTV setups on various OSes, I ran with mythTV on a xubuntu install for a while. I eventually punted, installed windows XP, and tried out the new open source contender for windows, Media Portal. I believe this project is from the same guy who started the XBMC (Xbox Media Center) project, which I absolutely love.

I tried Media Portal for a while, but it only detected one of my tuners (I am using a Kworld ATSC 110 and an Avermedia a180 - both HDTV tuners). Also, after watching TV playback for a while, it would freeze. The advantages of having windows drivers was obvious though: the performance was much better and CPU usage much lower. I wish it would have worked better.

My next thought was to buy an OEM copy of Windows Media Center Edition. I have heard good things about it and it would be nice to have this integrate seamlessly with other computers in the house, especially once Vista rolls around. But, then something changed my short-term plans... the Saints are playing in the NFC championship!!! The friggin' Saints!!! I needed something ready so I can watch the game on my big screen, and since Media Portal had the lockup issues, that was out of the question. The game will be played on Fox, which is one of the channels that the mythTV setup played well, so I decided to go back to the mythTV setup temporarily so I could watch the game.

I decided to try KnoppMyth for the second time. I had tried it once in the past and it was a nightmare for me. Of course, at that time, I knew nothing about the driver support for my tuners and nothing about mythTV. This time around, things were different. I managed to get things working pretty well and now some of my previous mythTV issues are gone as well!!! Maybe I will stick with mythTV a little longer.

To get things working in KnoppMyth (I am using the R5E50 release), I did have to do some work. First off, my first tuner was getting detected as a "V-Stream Studio TV Terminator"!!!

dmesg output:
saa7133[0]: subsystem: 1461:1044, board: V-Stream Studio TV Terminator [card=65,insmod option]


After quite a bit of digging, I noticed that one of the init scripts, /etc/init.d/KnoppMyth-tv, was calling a script way down at the bottom called "/usr/local/bin/tvterm.sh". Looking at that script, I saw:

/usr/local/bin/tvterm.sh:



Well, duh! The script greps lspci output for 7133/7135 chipsets and then assumes it is a Studio TV Terminator card!! At least I guess you could say the script is appropriately named though, as it did terminate my tv experience. :)

To fix, I simply commented out the call to tvterm in the KnoppMyth-tv init script. Then, I set up an init script to call "modprobe saa7134-dvb". I did some other stuff in there that is probably unnecessary, but here it is (I put it in /etc/init.d, then ran update-rc.d to include it as an init script):

/etc/init.d/saa7134-dvb-install.sh:



Next, I had to get my xorg.conf set up for my projector. I got the modeline setting for my InFocus SP-4805 projector off the web, but after putting it in, I was getting the wrong screensize even though the projector was reporting an 854x480 resolution. Finally, I fixed it by removing 800x600 as an option in the screen section. Now, my "Monitor" and "Screen" sections in my xorg.conf look like this:

/etc/X11/xorg.conf:



After that, things are working pretty well. I believe I am all set up for the big Saints game at least. I still have a problem with my clock setting. I cannot understand why after all these years it is still as hard and complicated as it is to set the darned time on a linux box.

If anyone is having any problems with their KWorld ATSC 110 or the AverMedia a180, let me know and I can see if I can help. Also, if anyone has gotten their Kworld remote to work, please pass the info along. I hear there is a kernel patch floating around to enable support for it, but I am hesitant to try patching the kernel right now since things are working.

1.19.2007

So, about this new diet...

As some of you know, around this time in 2005, I weighed about 195 pounds. I was very unhappy with my weight, and I started dieting aggressively. By November of that year, I was able to reach my goal of weighing less than 160 pounds. I was able to average about 1.5 pounds lost each week, mainly cutting calories only. Since I do very little to no exercise, and work behind a computer all day, calorie cutting is of extreme importance. Much of the calorie loss came from cutting 2 things: soft-drinks and sweets.

I charted most of my progress via an excel spreadsheet. Here you can see a chart from February to November of 2005:



That was great. I felt much better physically and much better about myself. Unfortunately, I slowly let things slide, and I have inched all the way back up to 180 pounds. I feel bad. I'm ready to take on the diet head-first again, hence the blog.

As I said, I'm starting off at 180 pounds. My goal is to average about 1 pound loss per week. That may be easier at the beginning than at the end, but ultimately, I would like to be between 150-160 pounds (as long as I'm not lifting weights... if I start lifting weights, I would love for that weight to climb due to muscle mass, but for now, I'm just going to concentrate on the diet and add exercise slowly).

Advice?? Words of inspiration?? Use the comments to let me know what you think.

1.18.2007

I needed a personal blog.

Many times I write scripts or programs at home, or at work, that I want to share with people. Sometimes I have experiences with different software packages, linux utilities, etc. that are too technical to post on the family website. This blog will give me a place to write about that stuff.

Today is also the first day of my new diet, so this blog will also give me a place to record progress, successes, and failures with my diet. Knowing that people might be reading it will give me a bit more motivation to keep my willpower up :)

So, there are rss and atom feeds of the blog if you would like to subscribe. Comments are welcome!