Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Replacement Neighborhoods Lead to Replacement Fences

The increase in hoary stories about MySpace and other social networking sites aimed at teens has been an interesting side note for me. They seem obvious in a world where the Internet is increasingly pervasive. More so since the American neighborhood is pretty much dead and gone.

Naturally once kids find a place to communicate without heavy observation, things can get out of hand. Parents and "concerned citizens" want to regulate their use. Unfortunately for the adults in this fight, the kids are better armed to handle the technology. It is practically quite difficult to block access to part the Web (just ask the Chinese government), and the fight will go on until the next fad hits.

Just in Case the Terrorists Weren't Depressing Enough

Apparently China has undergone a massive military buildup. The world's largest Communist state continues to be an enigma to me. I see our current position as being economically expedient, but with the potential side effect of mutual dependency. The turning point will come if China's economy ever gets off its feet and begins overtaking America's. I don't expect to see it in my lifetime, but one never knows.

Castle: 25 Million Dollars, Vampire (Presumably) Not Included

Actually, according to the story the castle never belonged to the Romanian ruler who inspired Dracula, though it is thought he visited it. Whatever, it's all in the marketing these days anyway.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Headline Hunting

We will start off the Monday headline bonanza with today's definition of irony: "World Health Organization chief Lee Jong-Wook dies suddenly." It's a serious, sad matter. But, the headline is also really, really ironic.
And now a pair of headlines that aren't much by themselves, but appeared literally back-to-back in the Yahoo! news feed. "FTC gasoline price probe finds nothing illegal" and "FTC: Some Gas Price Gouging After Katrina." Righty-o then. (Oh, the former is from Reuters, the latter from the Associated Press. Conclusions, political bickering, and conspiracy theories left as exercises for the reader.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Little Economics Lesson

In case you didn't know that America is the economic engine of the world, then here's a big indicator. America runs a huge, some claim unsustainable or crippling, trade deficit. This pushes the value of the dollar down on the open market, but it looks like quite a few other countries depend on the dollar being high to prop up their own economies.

Don't forget to note the bit about China finally allowing their currency to float a little in value when compared to the dollar. If this signals a true change in their policy, it is a very good thing for the world. China's is a large and growing player in the global economy, and communistic practices can do severe harm to the normal functioning of an economy.

The Daily Show More Entertaining than "Real" News

Apparently viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is watched regularly by more college aged people than regular news. And those viewers were more likely to have negative opinions of the candidates.

The first part of that can be explained by the simple fact that The Daily Show is humorous in its presentation of the news. The real thing straight up is simply depressing. As for the second part... How many of us, even those who vote regularly, have confidence that any of the candidates aren't scumbags?

Watching the Listeners

Another informational link-fest from ArsTechnica on the surveillance issue. There have also been some rumblings about the government using the wiretaps and phone trace data to investigate leaks. That one is right scary, but nothing concrete has come over the news services and a similar story is emerging from Germany. For now, I will reserve the wiggins until confirmation is available.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wiretapping Database of Sci-Fi Proportions

The story won't go away because it just keeps getting worse. Domestic surveillance with judicial oversight is one thing, this is something else.

The Demographics They Are a 'Changing

Interesting fact: forty five percent of the babies under five in America are ethnic minorities. Two generations from now, things will be very different indeed in America. Here's hoping everyone is raised to enjoy the diversity so the country will be better for it.

Is This the Truth That Was Out There?

According to the British Ministry of Defense, there are no signs of aliens flying UFOs. Well of course that's what the "confidential" report that got leaked would say.

Return to Sender, Address Unkown

No matter what you think of the Iranian President, you have to admit he's been showing that he's pretty astute politically. The latest flap over the letter is another example in a long line of the current administration not being able to handle public relations matters.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Rove Isn't a Genius After All

I am of the opinion that Rove has it backwards for a change. It isn't the Iraq war that is driving down the President's ratings. All of the people that disapproved of that did so years ago. They haven't changed their minds. No, the ratings are dropping to new lows because your conservative base is appalled by the lack of interest in enforcing existing immigration laws. They are appalled by the idea of the government collecting extensive databases on their citizens' communications.

There's a little document called the constitution out there guys. Time to read it again.

Money For Nothing

Remember not too long ago when the states were all running deficits and screaming that the fed had left them high and dry and that tax increases were the only way to save critical programs? Turns out North Carolina is running the largest budget surplus in the history of annual budgeting in the state. Naturally, the Democrats who control the state legislature are ready with spending increases to take care of the money.

More proof that taxes will never significantly go down until we have a wholesale mind change in the government at all levels. Feh.

Less of a Boom

I didn't know that Mt. St. Helens was erupting, but it is. I don't know how I missed it, because it has been active since 2004. I guess when there isn't a ginormous explosion, it doesn't quite capture the modern news cycle. An any case, there is a 300 foot rock growing four to five feet a day. That's incredible, and a good reminder that the Earth moves even when we aren't looking.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Lier, Money Grubber, or Servant of the Fans

I have long held the belief that George Lucas makes up half of what he says about the Star Wars franchise as he is going along. When fans of the original trilogy didn't really like his much hyped touch-up job, he even stated that the orginals didn't exist anymore. Perhaps they don't to him, but they sure do for the fans. And I for one am thrilled that they are going to release the movies on DVD with the original theatrical versions for the first time (along with the new cuts).

As for the prequel movies, the less said the better.

Marketing Department Gets Bad Press

For those who don't follow such things, Nintendo will be releasing a new console gaming system this year. The system was code named "Revolution" due to the potentially disruptive motion sensing technology designed into the controllers. As the Electronic Entertainment Expo rapidly approches, Nintendo announced the official name of the console: Wii. It's pronounced the same as "we." The name change generated quite a storm of press. Much of it negative, such as the comments from some game developers.

The console itself still looks promising, and it will be interesting to see if the Revolution by any other name will still play sweet games. (Or should that be swiit games. See, it's just impossible to talk/write about the Wii without coming up with bad plays on it.)

Didn't We Used to Start Wars Over This Stuff

It looks like rising transportation costs are going to lead to another hike in postage rates. The rate increases are happening more and more often it seems. So much so in fact, that some have proposed a stamp with no denomination that can be used for first class letters until the end of time.

Watching the Watchers

Looks like the Mexican President is backing off the idea that his citizens could carry small doses of illegal drugs legally. So it appears that common sense might have won one for a change.

The assault on Fair Use continues, this time in the UN. This issue is a bit more complicated than common sense perhaps, but all it really demonstrates is the ability of money to control politicians.