Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lucky 7

About a month and a half ago I did something stupid. Like a moron I followed a link on a questionable web site and infected my computer with what is known as 'ransom ware'. Its that crap that pretends to be an anti-virus program but takes over your machine and won't go away until you buy the remedy. Well I wasn't having any of that, and I grappled with the beastly thing for over six hours. When the dust cleared I was victorious...but my operating system was critically injured. No worries, thought I, for I have the XP install discs that Unkk so graciously supplied when he gave me this computer. So I popped the first disc in, clicked 'repair', and waited for the return of full functionality. Alas, twas not to be. I ran the install several times, with the same results...I couldn't go online, and several drivers wouldn't install. I contacted Unkk, who tried to assist over the phone, but we couldn't figure it out, so he tried sending me a copy of Windows 7. It's a huge program that took about two hours to send, and it didn't work. So he said he'd send the disc via mail. Then, alas, he vanished under an avalanche of real life stuff, and I have yet to hear back from him. So, after limping along on a trusty, but swiftly deteriorating laptop I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase Windows 7. Amazon was selling it for about $50 cheaper than anywhere else, and the Missus said we could, just barely, afford it. It wasn't supposed to get here until Wednesday, but the package was in the box yesterday. I was both elated and nervous because if it didn't work that would be $150 wasted. So it was with great trepidation that I popped the disc into the computer shaped paperweight, and clicked 'install'. Oh...My...Flying Spaghetti Monster! It's like a brand new computer! This machine is finally living up to the potential of its monstrous components. The install was smooth as glass, and did not take anywhere near as long as XP had, and everything works perfectly. To be honest I never liked XP, and have long lamented the loss of Windows 98. XP was, to me, like going from driving a stick-shift to a car that only had an accelerator and brake pedal. It was designed for people who don't care what's under the hood, but I had been used to tinkering with the guts of the OS, which was relatively easy in 98. I never dealt with Vista, but from what I hear that's a good thing, but Windows 7 seems to be an awesome OS, though I'm only just beginning to explore its features. One example of how much better it is, when I installed City of Heroes on my old machine, just loading the program from the install discs usually took about 20 to 30 minutes, so I got ready to do the dishes while it loaded yesterday. The game loaded in about 10 minutes!! And every other program install that didn't involve a download has gone equally as fast. I had heard good things about 7, and from people who generally aren't fans of Windows, and I'm starting to see why. So I still have a lot of downloading to do to get back to where I was before, but methinks it will be fun this time, rather than a chore.

Peace, y'all,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Am Sick of Al Qaida Running This Country

When was the last time you were scared by something you weren't thinking about? Terrorism is the one warfare that relies on the cooperation of the enemy. Al Qaida attacked us nearly a decade ago, and they've been the schoolyard bully ever since. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. If we ignore the terrorists, they lose most of their power over us. I'm not suggesting that we reduce our security, but do we have to make every failed hijacking or bombing a national reason to scream and scurry around like a barnyard full of frightened chickens? Yes, the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim extremists, but Timothy McVeigh was a Baptist extremist and we don't freak out every time the Southern Baptist Convention announces its next Disney boycott. Why then are we losing our collective minds over this mosque being built in New York City? "It's two blocks from Ground Zero(tm)!" So? Does that really matter? What if it were four blocks, or eight, or two miles? Someone would object. Sure there are people who are legitimately offended by it going in 'so close' to the site of the attacks, but the vast majority are just parroting what they hear spewing from the radical right-wing squawk boxes like Newt Gingrich and Glen Beck. And there are plenty of non-Muslim people, including many who lost family members in the attacks, who support the mosque. Ultimately what does it matter to you or me if they build that mosque? And more importantly what does it mean to the very fabric of our nation if we somehow find a way to stop it? There is no premise more fundamental to this country than freedom of religion. Most of the colonists who came here from Europe were trying to escape religious tyranny. But now, because a group from a certain religion did something bad to us, we are prepared to toss our very foundations out of the window in the name of fear and hatred? Is that what the United States of America is all about?

I will say this. On September 12, 2001 I was wracking my brain to make sense of the attacks. What would Al Qaida stand to gain by angering the 'sleeping giant'? Today it's very easy to see. We are not just a country divided, we are fractured almost beyond repair. The dust cloud from the collapsing towers took a few hours to settle over New York City, but the cloying smoke of fear and distrust that has blanketed our nation has yet to settle, and if we continue to fan the flames of hate in the name of political exigency, and don't for a minute imagine that those in power aren't behind the fans, then it may never dissipate. Our leaders quickly seized upon the premise that a frightened nation will allow them to do almost anything in the name of security, and were they ever right. So long as we are looking under our beds, and under our neighbor's beds, for terrorists, and branding every Muslim a terrorist, then the government can quietly continue to erode our freedoms, increase their power base, and line their pockets with our futures.

What's the solution? Forget Al Qaida. Forget Bin Laden. Ignore the mosque down the street the same way you ignore the church, or temple, or synagogue. Raise your children as responsibly as you can, and turn your attention to where it should Congress. To the White House. To the Supreme Court. Find out what your local representatives are doing in your name while you protest a building thousands of miles away. And for the love of all that you call holy get the idea that all people of a certain faith are the same out of your head. I don't like the Catholic church, but I know and love many Catholics. I don't like the Southern Baptist Convention, but I know and love many Southern Baptists.(Hell, I married one) And I don't care for many of the teachings of Islam, but that doesn't mean that I for one minute believe that all Muslims are hate filled murderers. In fact I'd be willing to bet, though I can't say for sure, that more people have been killed in the name of Jesus over the course of the last two thousand years than in the name of Allah. We are all just dumb little blobs of protoplasm scrambling around this planet trying to make the best of an existence that often makes little sense. Does it help anything, or anyone to be hateful just because others are? Without our complicity, without our ears, and without our acting out, extremists are just angry little people shooting their blackened hearts at the world. Ignore them, and they will go away.

In my opinion, of course.

Supplemental: When I wrote this this morning I had not yet listened to Dan Carlin's latest Common Sense podcast...but I am thrilled to echo his views.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Terrible Intimacy

It's 5:30 on Saturday morning, and I've been awake for an hour. I didn't do this on purpose, I just woke up at 4 and couldn't get back to sleep. So I've been piddling about on the Intertubes and nursing a wee hangover from an overindulgence of beer yestereve. I just finished reading Phil Plait's most recent Bad Astronomy blog entry which included a link to an interview with Adam Savage of the Mythbusters. I have heard numerous interviews with Mr. Savage, and one would imagine that I'd be thrilled to listen to another as he is a very interesting and fabulously intelligent speaker, but something stopped me. Lately I've noticed that I have been reluctant to pursue podcasts and interviews involving some of the celebrities I admire, and I think I've finally put my finger on why. The Internet in general, and podcasts specifically, have allowed us to become very familiar with the celebs we like via such things as blogs, and twitter, and Facebook, etc., yet there is a frustration that comes with this perceived intimacy. I can read Adam Savage's or Wil Wheaton's tweets, and feel like I'm part of their circle of friends, but in reality I'm just one out of hundreds of thousands that got those very same tweets. I can respond, but the odds of my yop being heard over the multitude of yips are vanishingly small, and this has lead, at least in my case, to a growing frustration made all the more so by the fact that the people I follow are very accessible, but due to the sheer volume of people trying to access them they are also very inaccessible. I guess I'm spoiled by the interactions I've had with the celebs I've interviewed on Starbase 66, and with the wonderful relationships I've formed with podcasters like Richard Smith and Allison Downing, not to mention the interaction I greatly enjoy with the fans of my show. I guess I just wish that the illusion of intimacy weren't so...illusory. Ah well, as we forge ahead into these uncharted waters of human interaction there are bound to be emotional byproducts hitherto unseen, and unforeseeable. Actually, when I think of it that way, it's pretty groovy.

Enjoy your weekend, y'all.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?!

Back in May, when we moved, we rented a U-Haul truck from a little mom and pop garage less than a mile from our house. It was the kind of place that you can imagine that they had only just last week reluctantly removed the hose that rang a bell inside when you drove over it. The skinny, elderly woman who took care of us was very friendly, and we were quite pleased with our experience. Fast-forward to this morning. Mrs. Marius was looking at our bank statement on the computer when she says, "Hon, did you spend $155 at the U-Haul place yesterday?" I was puzzled since I hadn't been back to the old town for nearly a month, and certainly had no cause to spend any money at that particular garage. We looked up their number, called them, and spoke with the same woman. No, she had not put in a charge, and only had our transaction from May in her records. I thanked her, and called the bank. They checked and found that the debit card info had been input manually, no swipe. No shock there. So we made arrangements for me to go in and fill out a dispute form so we could get our money back. Then, thinking that I was doing her a favor, I called the garage back to let them know that someone had accessed their files and stolen our money. The woman, rather than thank me, or even fucking apologize, got pissed at me, like it was my fault someone stole from me using her store's information. She angrily suggested I call U-Haul since she didn't have any record of the transaction. I wanted to point out that if someone was stealing they weren't likely to record it, but it seemed pointless. I have since filled out the appropriate paperwork, and canceled my card, which in itself is a real pain in the ass, but I really hope the bank goes after that place with a vengeance. If she had been in the least bit conciliatory I would believe that she was as much the victim, but I'm not so sure now. That may be their scam, wait a couple of months then put through a charge that, were we not so fucking broke, might go unnoticed. I don't know, but I do know that the next time I rent a truck from U-Haul I'll use a money order.


Marius the Violated

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Before and After

Sometime last year I found a very old picture of my parents holding a not quite one-year-old me and posted it on Facebook and the Simply Syndicated forums. My friend and co-podcaster Karen, who holds a 9th degree black belt in Photoshop offered to try to restore it to it's original glory for me. Of course I was thrilled that she wanted to, especially given the condition of this 45-year-old photo:

Time went by, and I forgot about the picture for the most part, and when I did remember I knew that Karen had been very busy at work, and had encountered some real life speed bumps, so I just figured she would get to it when she got to it. Then, yesterday amongst many, in my mind unnecessary, apologies she sent me this wonder:

I am certain that the day this photo come out of the developing lab it didn't look this good. I am so grateful and blown away by this I haven't sufficient superlatives. I'll be sending either the file or prints of this to many in my family who will, no doubt, cherish as much, or maybe even more, than I.

Thank you so much, Karen. You are awesome!!

Marius the Giddy