Monthly Archives: April 2008

Plays for not much longer

Remember when the MSN Music Store shut down over a year ago? Remember that Microsoft said that songs you “bought” from the MSN Music Store were going to be yours to keep forever? Guess what, sucker? After August, you can’t upgrade your computer without losing your music.

Yet another in a long series of “DRM Hates Customers” stories. You’d think the computer industry ditching copy protection years ago, coupled with the complete meltdown of DRM in music over the past couple years, would make the movie industry wake up and kill their copy protection plans. You’d be wrong. Not that their DRM will hold up either… Oh, yeah – it didn’t! HAH!

Backup Hardware

I’ve been using a WD MyBook 500GB USB-attached drive for my nightly backups for about a year now.  This week, it stopped working reliably (SMART errors intermittently).  Of course, it’s out of warranty, so it had to die.  🙂

I’m looking into a more reliable storage system, perhaps a RAID or Drobo box, maybe attached to the network, but probably direct-attached to the desktop.  Does anyone have any advice, based on personal experience?

The Drobo looks awfully sweet, if a bit pricey.  I like the idea that I can just swap in a new drive whenever I have some extra cash (or drives drop in price or go on sale), and the device just uses it automagically.  The traditional RAID approach of having multiple identical drives, preferably all the same model, seems somewhat rigid and unreasonable to me.  What happens if a drive fails a year or two from now, and that model is no longer available?  Imagine you have a RAID filled with 80GB drives today; good luck finding a replacement drive new.

Life can be so nice

After a great ceramic show at the museum, where Kat caught up with several fellow artists (and a few students who want extra credit), followed by a wonderful dinner downtown (despite the best efforts of the most inept waiter ever seen), there was a presentation. Kat insists that I inform all and sundry throughout the world, so I will.
Engagement Ring
Yes, she is actually pointing to the ring after having put marker on her finger pointing to the ring as well. Thorough, she is.

October 14th is the big day. We’ll be having a dinner for locals (and whoever wants to travel to the middle of nowhere) on the afternoon of Sunday October 19th, which happens to be my son’s (and sister’s) birthday.

Why do so many people hate themselves?

The estate tax only affects estates valued at above $2 million today, and maybe down to $1 million if things are allowed to lapse in 2011 (not $675,000 no matter what your talk radio told you). How much do you expect to leave in net worth for your heirs? More than a million dollars? Not likely. Yet, a significant number of people who will never be affected by the estate tax are fighting to repeal it, on behalf of people making amounts of money most of us can’t imagine.

There are so many complicated economic issues wrapped up in estate tax debates, it would be ridiculous to try to summarize them. My curiousity is piqued by the rabid defense of the “repeal the death tax” mantra by people who will likely never have to pay it anyway. What kind of strange phenomenon causes people to spend time and effort fighting for something that helps only people most of us would classify as filthy rich?

I recently read a Princeton research paper, which showed quite clearly that the party in the Executive has historically been a good indicator of the rate of increase in income inequality. Republican presidents have been very good to the top 20% of Americans, and pretty crappy to the bottom 20%, with a relatively straight-line graph between them. Democratic presidents have been pretty good to the bottom 20%, and just about as good to the top 20%, with a straight-line graph between them as well. The difference, of course, is that the Dem graph is nearly horizontal. Income growth is about 2.5% for the top quintile under either party, but under a Dem that’s about the same level for everyone in the country (2-2.5%). Under the GOP, on the other hand, the top quintile still gets a nice growth rate of 2.5% or so, but the bottom quintile gets growth of 0.5%. The only exception to this pattern is in election years, when the Democrats seem to shoot themselves in the foot with the poor, and the Republicans somehow discover they can give money to the plebes to gain votes. Economic stimulus package, anyone?

By the way, I’ve been told by someone near and dear to me that the Princeton paper is not nearly as fascinating a read as I think it is. Something about “deathly dull” was murmured, as I recall. I am focusing on income inequality because it is so stark a statistic of economic health for most people, as well as being an indicator of widespread discontent.  Discontent breeds instability and all that, ya know. So, currently, the top 1% of people in the country have 22% of the income, which is the greatest concentration of wealth in such a small group since before the Great Depression.  We all know how well that turned out, eh? Another good indicator of economic health is personal savings. In 1982, that rate was 11%; in 2006, it was negative 1%. I’m pretty sure that’s not good.

If this income inequality issue is so blatantly obvious, the question remains: Why does anyone who isn’t already wealthy vote Republican? My theory is “the media makes people crazy.” Look at the giant storms of controversy and outrage the media talking heads have been stirring up over relatively minor issues of things like “bitter people” and cleavage and flag pins. Do any of those things really matter to the citizenry? Of course not. But, people have grown so accustomed to the din of information flowing from the magic box that shows them both parties looking stupid and venal and self-serving and hypocritical, people assume there’s no difference between them. We’ve watched the offshore outsourcing and domestic dismantling of our industrial base, through several presidents of both parties. People have become used to the idea that either party will screw the citizenry over. So, the parties end up ceding the ground of substance to “none of the above” and spend all their time fighting over trivia and “social issues.” Most of the social issues affect very few people, and based on my reading of that quaint document called The Constitution, are none of the government’s business anyway. But, you can sure rile folks up if you claim your opponent wants to take their guns or Bibles away (no matter how fictitious your claim may be).

It’s all rather disgusting. If you can stand it, watch the Pennsylvania Democratic debate – the first half is devoted to flag pins and bitterness. We’re so screwed.

Near-Free Senseo

Following Wayne’s tip on Gear Diary, I requested a “free” Senseo coffee maker (just pay for shipping) last week.  Guess what’s in my kitchen right now?  Oh, yeah, baby.  I’m not a big coffee drinker, but someone else is and for fifteen bucks, what the heck?

I guess I didn’t read the offer very well, because I was surprised to see a canister in the box, along with a bag of coffee and the machine itself.  The machine is on sale at Amazon for about 65, coffee bags cost around 4 dollars, and the canister is another 4 bucks.  So, almost 75 dollars worth of coffee swag for 15 – dude, hit that site, if you (or your significant other) like coffee even a little bit.

Circus is in town

You may have heard a story or two on the news recently about the peculiar group of polygamists down the road from me. After attending a school function for The Boy next door to Fort Concho, I had an encounter with a Texas State Trooper.

School function, so I took photos. The sight of me with a camera was of some interest to the DPS officer, apparently. He asked if I’d been taking photos of the Fort, which of course I hadn’t been and told him that. Then he turned friendly and wished me a good day. About 50 meters down the street, I passed a man with a massive camera taking photos of the Fort, while standing in the street. Guess he was too obvious.

Anyway, I know that there are many issues (privacy, witness tampering, yada yada) involved in this mess, and I’m not about to raise a fuss about a rather minor thing, but I’m allowed to take photos of just about anything I want to. I can’t help but wonder how the conversation would have gone if I’d actually been so bold as to have taken a photo of Officer Friendly or (gasp!) even of the State Park, while standing on a public street. I’m sure the sky would have fallen.

Sure hope this circus is over soon. Housing all those people on the Fort has already caused at least one event cancellation.  This town uses the area for many community days.


The movie Expelled is coming out in just over a week. According to every reviewer who isn’t an right-wing fundamentalist, it sucks. Of course, I assume it will play here in San Angelo (as seen on “FLDS Watch”!), because we always get that stuff. Have fun with the reviews on Expelled Exposed – the reviews are pretty entertaining. Heck, even Fox News didn’t like it; I’m pretty sure that’s the target demo.