Browse Month: April 2006

04/29/2006

It’s a good thing Laralee never reads this, because she would be mortified.

04/29/2006

Today I was lucky enough to play my first-ever game of Dance Dance Revolution– the dancing craze that’s been sweeping the nation for about two years. Watched by legions of adoring fans in the form of our friends the Francii, as well as a spellbound Laralee, I succeeded in providing untold entertainment.

There are more photos than these, but I think they truly capture the spirit of my performance. Notice my friend Jessica laughing her teenage head off in the last shot.

My shirt, incidentally, is the Yoda shirt with the phrase “Do or do not, there is no try.” I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to dancing, my answer is a solid “do not”.

04/27/2006

Congress continues to be on the forefront of trampling our rights, as another bill was introduced in the Senate that would make it illegal to broadcast streaming MP3 music over the internet. Only Windows Media or Real files (both crappy formats) would be allowed because they support encryption and licensing.

Never mind that internet radio stations who are currently streaming MP3’s are doing so in a completely legal fashion (the RIAA has seen to it that the “pirate” stations have all been shut down). They pay royalties to the appropriate copyright holders before sending the music over the wire. But since it’s possible to record the streaming audio, a couple of brilliant senators think it’s a good idea to lock down the data. Never mind that technically, if it comes out of the speakers, anything can be recorded– no matter the encryption or licensing used. There are tools to do this, and they’re easy to find.

Predictably, there was a rousing discussion of the issue on Slashdot, and I must say the funniest comment was this:

I’m sure glad they solved all the fricking important problems before they decided on going after streaming mp3s, because, really, when I think of all the things going wrong in the world today, streaming fricking mp3s are the absolute bottom of the list.

What I wouldn’t give for someone in Congress to represent the people, instead of just screwing us constantly. I’m waiting for them to just ban listening to music altogether.

Amen.

04/27/2006

Gas is expensive these days. It’s not as expensive as petro in Europe (which is currently running a little more than twice what we pay), but it’s still causing some grumbling.

So, predictably, some U.S. Senators who are up for re-election this fall are coming up with wacky ideas they hope will appeal to voters. Jim Talent of Missouri proposes a $100 tax credit for every American family, and says:

It will show people that Washington gets it, and that it’s time to provide some relief to Americans, to Missourians who are trying to support their families and are paying these very high gasoline prices.

I almost busted a gut when I read “… Washington gets it”. Yeah.

Never mind that $100 per family equates to several billion dollars of money our country can’t afford to spend (budget deficit? what budget deficit?). A hundred bucks is probably one tankful of gas for those people tooling around town in their Tahoe. Wow, that’ll really make an impact!

Senator Talent, here’s a hint: it’s the grossly oversized SUVs trundling along our city streets that are the problem. People who bought an Explursion or whatever and now gripe about dropping a hundred clams to fill their tanks are getting a lesson in reality, and it’s high time. Go buy a little Honda for those half-mile trips to the video store. Or better yet, get a bike.

04/25/2006

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.”

— George Aiken

04/25/2006

Regarding my recent post about the proposed Congressional legislation that would make the DMCA look like a slap on the wrist, I found some statistics to demonstrate how badly this whole copyright infringement issue has been blown out of proportion.

Consider that under the proposed new law, non-commercial distribution of copyrighted material worth more than $2,500 (in other words, all movies and music) carries a maximum federal prison sentence of ten years. That’s 120 months. Now consider the average prison terms for other federal crimes:

  • embezzlement — 7 months
  • bribery — 10 months
  • fraud — 14 months
  • manslaughter — 33 months
  • racketeering and extortion — 72 months
  • sexual abuse — 73 months
  • arson — 87 months

That’s right: you could rape or kill someone and get off lighter than if you’re caught sharing the latest Disney DVD with a friend. Think about that.

04/24/2006

“My fellow Americans… only 32% of you approve of the job I’m doing as President…”

That’s right, kids, Bush has dropped below the one-in-three mark. How much worse can it get?

04/24/2006

“A lot of the reason the iPod exists is because of federal research dollars.”

— George W. Bush

(Umm, what?)

04/24/2006

Lately I’ve been noticing funny photography on web sites. Today is no exception: I noticed this woman on the home page of a site– is it just me, or does she look like she’s heavily tranquilized or something?

04/23/2006

The RIAA and the MPAA are probably wetting their collective pants in glee as Congress is set to begin preliminary hearings on a new bill called the Intellectual Property Protection Act. Introduced by Representative Lamar Smith and backed by perennial favorite Alberto Gonzales, the bill would expand the powers of the abysmal Digital Millennium Copyright Act by adding such things as:

  • Copyright infringement would earn you a prison sentence of ten years, instead of the measly five you’d get now. Repeat offenders get twenty years.
  • The FBI and other government agencies will have (surprise!) expanded wiretapping authority in their unending pursuit of the evil copyright pirates.
  • Copyright violations could be pursued as criminal cases, even if the copyright was never registered with the U.S. Copyright Office
  • Possession of anti-circumvention tools– such as software designed to decrypt DVD’s– would be a criminal act, even if the tools were never used to break copyright.
  • Attempts to commit copyright infringement– even if they never came to fruition– would be federal crimes with up to a ten-year prison sentence.
  • Provides $20 million in funding for a new FBI copyright enforcement unit.

It’s staggering to think of how far our elected representatives will go to protect the special interests of a few well-funded groups. Consider, as an example, the FBI copyright enforcement unit, which will be funded with tax dollars but will in reality be doing the work that copyright holders should be doing. If the RIAA or MPAA suspect infringement, it is their duty to prove it in court. Although I agree the FBI may need to be involved in high-profile (meaning massive) piracy operations, the government has no right to take our money and spend it on behalf of these trade groups.

As a Linux user, I occasionally use software to play DVD’s on my computer. These are legal DVD’s I’ve purchased and own, and the software is open-source and not bound by commercial licenses. But since it’s been reverse-engineered, it’s illegal– both under the DMCA and this new proposed legislation. Apparently I’m risking ten years in the Big House because I want to watch a legitimate DVD on my computer. Moreover, even if I wasn’t using the software, my mere possession of it would be a criminal act under the new law. Amazing.

Perhaps the most obnoxious part of the whole business is the endorsement from Attorney General Gonzales:

New technology is encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft, quite frankly to fund terrorism.

Unbelievable. He really thinks terrorists are sharing pirated copies of the latest movie or song to fund their activities? Wow. But then again, I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that Gonzales (and, in fact, the entire Bush administration) came up with the tired terrorist argument. Apparently everything in today’s world is about terrorism.

Or defending corporate interests. Whatever.

04/23/2006

The RIAA’s unbelievably ignorant efforts to combat music piracy continue their streak as this week they sue a family in Rockmart, Georgia who doesn’t own a computer.

According to the federal lawsuit filed by the RIAA, the family “has used, and continues to use, an online media distribution system”. They’re accused of sharing such classics as Poison’s “I Won’t Forget You” and Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You”.

It’ll be interesting to see this one play out in court. Hah.

04/23/2006

The RIAA took a bit of a PR hit lately, when their case against 13-year-old Brittany Chan was dismissed by the court.

In late 2004, the RIAA’s file-sharing sniffers thought they detected some illegal downloaded songs at the Chan residence. They filed a lawsuit against Candy Chan (Brittany’s mother) but she insisted she hadn’t done anything. Eventually they dismissed their case.

Then the lawyers came back to attack Brittany, but since she’s a minor they included a requirement of guardian ad litem so they could hold her mother responsible for her actions. Because this is a complicated (and expensive) process, the court asked the RIAA’s dogs to provide a plan for how to pay for the guardianship. The RIAA responded by saying they shouldn’t have to pay anything because their case was so strong. Never mind “innocent until proven guilty”… such trivialties of the law are beneath the RIAA.

In the end, the court dismissed the case because the RIAA never answered the court’s question. Bummer for them.

Idiots.

04/23/2006

“You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.”

— Warren Beatty

04/22/2006

I’m registering for the Bolder Boulder run– my annual 10km Memorial Day adventure– and I noticed that the home page has a photo of a bunch of the A-wave (read “fast”) runners at the start line.

And, as you’d probably expect, there’s also a gorilla.

04/18/2006

There are times when I’m talking with clients and they’re asking about some new whiz-bang feature they want on their web site, and in my head I’m picturing Boromir at the Council of Elrond, when he’s talking about how much Mordor sucks and he finally says,

Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.

If only I could say that to my clients…

04/18/2006

I’m responsible for a web site for Vusi Mahlasela, who is an African musician. Although I didn’t do the design, as I was making some updates on the site I realized there is an awesome photo in the corner of this page showing some guy in a toga who’s really into the music at the concert.

And what’s with the woman behind him? She’s enjoying… uhh, something…

04/17/2006

Hurrah for New Hampshire!

The House of Representatives of that plucky little state has just passed (217-84) a bill which prohibits the state from participating in the Real ID Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress last fall as part of a rider on a tsunami relief bill. The Real ID Act could very well be the worst piece of legislation since the PATRIOT Act, and has far-reaching privacy implications as well as a laundry list of implementation problems ranging from security concerns to a burdensome cost on all fifty states.

Because the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (hey Congress, remember the Constitution?) specifically says that states reserve any powers and authority not specifically granted to the federal government. This is just such a case, but of course the Department of Homeland Insecurity is strong-arming the states and waving the War on Terror flag as part of their arguments why the Real ID Act will “make America safer”.

I sincerely hope that the New Hampshire Senate passes the bill so it becomes law, and that more states follow their lead. It’s about time someone stood up for the rights of 270 million citizens.

04/13/2006

“When we got into office, the thing that surprised me the most was that things were as bad as we’d been saying they were.”

— John F. Kennedy

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