The Return

Testing The Waters

And I’m back.

After over two years of inactivity, I’ve finally gotten to the point that I might be able to begin writing again. I’m hoping that I can because truth be told, I miss this site, being silly and writing things that make me laugh. Putting my thoughts out there for the world to read was rewarding to me on a spiritual level and without this outlet in my life I’ve been feeling a bit lost. Yes, it’s true, I have a wonderful family life, a challenging work life, and plenty of hobbies that have taken up my time these past two years. But writing on this site has always been something I enjoyed doing just for the sake of doing it, and I have really missed it.

So, nothing much more to say. Just saying I think I’m back… again.

Uhmmmm…

I don’t know how to leave if you just keep staring at me. Could you maybe blink, or turn around, or something?

Soooo awkward.

Anime Becomes Reality

A few years ago I became infatuated with a remarkable piece of anime called Denno Coil. I won’t be spending time here explaining all the intricate details of the plot and characters, mostly because that’s what the Denno Coil Wikipedia page is for, but I do want to bring to light one soon-to-be-real aspect of the show.

AR glasses.

That’s right, thanks to the tireless innovation machine that is Google, there may well soon be real AR glasses you can wear around town. Now, while I’m positive that the first iteration of Google’s AR glasses will not be the sleek, modern and nearly invisible units shown in Denno Coil, what I am positive of is that if they don’t screw it up completely this will be the next big technological wave every other tech company will be trying to catch up with in the not-too-distant future. When I first saw Denno Coil, I must have driven my wife crazy as I literally shouted, “Why hasn’t someone invented this yet?!” every five minutes. And it wasn’t just the AR glasses I was so amazed by. It was the entire, interactive, virtual reality world where the children were playing that was overlaid upon the “real” world. It was the interactive maps, virtual assistants, virtual pets and all the other things the glasses made possible.

And yes, you could also make phone calls using them, too.

I don’t know if Google’s AR glasses will be the “right” implementation of the AR glasses concept, because I for one don’t think hand gestures alone are the best way to interact with the AR. I’d think a combination of hand gestures, voice commands and tracking eye movement would be best. However, the fact that Google has so much information at their disposal that they could connect you to, so much data they could put in front of you for your AR pleasure, it makes me hopeful that one day we will actually reach the level of total interactivity with the virtual world that Denn? Coil will seem less like fantastic science fiction and more like plain, old science.

And on that day Neal Stephenson will smile and say, “Told you so.”

I Hate SOPA/PIPA

I was going to write a long and drawn out post explaining what SOPA and PIPA are, why enacting them into law would fundamentally change the internet for Americans in a distressingly negative way, and what you could do to make your opposition heard AND counted. However, this infographic combined with this one-sheet breakdown from EFF and this easily digestible website from Google do the job much better than I could have on my own.

So, here’s what you can do right now to stop these two poorly written and ultimately draconian bills from becoming law.

The Simple, Fast and Easy method:
Go to Google’s Anti-SOPA/PIPA site, fill out the form on the right and click “Sign the Petition”.

The Slightly More Involved Method:
1) Look up your senator to find out if he/she supports or opposes.

2) Click on your appropriate representative’s photo or name to get their contact information.

3) Print out the following on a piece of actual paper, sign it and physically mail it to your Senator.

I am writing to you as a voter in your district. I urge you to oppose S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. It does not deserve floor consideration. I also urge my representative to vote “no” on SOPA, the corresponding House bill.

Over the coming days you’ll be hearing from the many businesses, advocacy organizations, and ordinary Americans who oppose this legislation because of the myriad ways in which it will stifle free speech and innovation. We hope you’ll take our concerns to heart and oppose this legislation by voting “no” on cloture.

4) Share this post with EVERYONE you know so they can add their voice to the opposition of SOPA/PIPA.

Political Anger Management

I am sick and tired of politics in my country.

Over the last 12 or so years, something’s been bothering me about the political system in America and I’m finally at the point that I can’t keep silent anymore. You see, I’ve been wondering why We The People keep electing self-selected, career politicians into office instead of searching for and electing the people who are best suited for the job of actually running the country. The politicians have made it VERY clear via their actions and history that the only thing that can possibly motivate them to actually do their jobs is the threat of losing power, or the promise of acquiring MORE power. In the rare instances that an elected official has a clear and workable plan for doing something that the majority of the country wants done (whatever that thing might be) other elected officials will do their very best to thwart that plan for the sole purpose of pandering to a tiny but vocal select minority of people to whom they are beholden, or from whom they wish to curry favor.

Why do We The People stand for this?

Where does it state that We The People can only elect someone to office from the pool of choices handed to us by those ALREADY in power? Isn’t there a write-in candidate section on the ballot? Why can’t We The People, who now have nearly unfettered and unregulated access to the great knowledge dispenser known as the internet, find someone the majority of us can agree would actually do their job and write that name in on the ballot? A single website, where anyone can be nominated by anyone, followed by a Wikipedia-like vetting of those candidates, and a constant online poll to narrow the pool down to a manageable number, seems like a FAR better way to discover viable candidates than the current method of… Well, of what? How, exactly are the current crop of candidates selected? Does anyone know? As far as I can tell, people simply declare their intention to run and wait for whichever party they’re a part of to bless their campaign. If no blessing is forthcoming, the self-proclaimed candidate just vanishes in a network news cycle.

Or worse, they become a political commentator on basic cable.

Look, it is my personal opinion that ANYONE who actively seeks an elected position in a capacity higher than that of Mayor is someone that should NOT be elected into office. I believe that term limits should be implemented across ALL facets of the government and that Senators and Representatives should be forced to relinquish control of their cushy jobs every set number of years, never to return to that post as long as they shall live. And I also believe that We The People need to change our government because it is a sure bet that our government will not change on its own. I’m not saying I have any answers; I’m not that smart, savvy or intelligent. What I am though is angry. Angry about the economy, angry about jobs and angry about taxes. In fact, where it concerns politics, I’m angry about just about everything. And, based on everything I’ve been reading and hearing out there for the last 12 years, I don’t think I’m alone.

So, isn’t it about time We The People did something constructive with all our anger?

Why can’t We The People create a political revolution whereby ALL current elected officials are removed from office and we hold another election where ANYONE, regardless of political party affiliation, can run? Technology should have made vetting political candidates easier, it should have made the entire political process more transparent and accessible, but it hasn’t. The internet should have made it possible for ANYONE to run for office, yet we are still faced with the same two political parties who keep propping up candidates who will be beholden to their party and the special interest lobbyists who cater to their party. The parties themselves are becoming more and more polarized, more and more vitriolic and extreme and just plain crazy. They pander to the extremist fringe of their constituents, the foaming-at-the-mouth, die-hard, take-no-prisoner believers which is leaving more and more people in the middle, who are level-headed and willing to make concessions or compromises in order to do what is best for the country as a whole, disenfranchised and without a political voice. To some, what I’m suggesting sounds like a new political party, but to even mention introducing a new party into the political process would mean ridicule and derision, because that would be a “waste of a vote.”

Well, why the hell is that?

Who says We The People can’t nominate people from completely OUTSIDE the current political system who are willing to do what needs to be done to fix our broken country, rather than a career, party-line patsy who is only willing to do whatever it takes to keep their job? There are economists, scientists, philosophers, educators, Nobel Peace Prize laureates and a multitude of others who would be far better suited to steer the U.S. out of the hole our two party system has put us in than the career politicians we currently have running the country. If you’re being hired to do a certain job then it shouldn’t matter what political party you belong to as long as you’re qualified to do the job. Does it matter if your mechanic is a Democrat or a Republican as long as he can fix your car? I know it seems radical, but with the current Occupy Wall Street demonstrations taking place around the country, how hard would it REALLY be to get write-in candidates onto the ballot for 2012? What are the REAL barriers stopping We The People from finding a single person to run for President that 52% of the 99% can stand behind and actually believe in? Why can’t We The People ignore the noise and blustered posturing of the talking heads on TV and elect a write-in candidate of our own choosing who DOESN’T have any ties to the broken, caustic, polarized and self-serving political machines in Washington?

And what the hell is stopping us from doing all this RIGHT NOW?!

PowerPoint Killed the Video Star

So, you’re getting ready for a big meeting where you’re going to give a presentation to all the bigwig muckity-mucks at your company. Your boss, and even his boss, will be in attendance to hear what you’ve got to say. You’ve spent all week crafting the perfect PowerPoint presentation to wow them with on Monday and now, on Friday at 4:30pm, you are ready to add all the flair and pizazz that you just KNOW is going to get you a promotion.

It’s time to add the videos and music.

You’re no rookie presenter, you’ve been using PowerPoint for almost your entire career, so you know exactly what you need to do to insert your videos and music. You make sure they’re all in the same folder as your PowerPoint presentation and that they’re all in a file format that PowerPoint can use (WMV or AVI for movies and all your music is MP3). Heck, you even went online and made sure your computer’s CODECs were up to date. What could possibly go wrong? You smile as you remember how Smitty’s presentation flopped last year when his video of cats dancing to the Macarena didn’t play during his big presentation because he thought a MOV file could play in PowerPoint on a PC. What a moron. It’s his own fault that he was transfered to shipping with no hope of a promotion. He should know that MOVs are native to Macs and not PCs. He should have converted the files, or at least tested the presentation beforehand. He just got sloppy. The poor bastard.

But that’s not going to happen to you.

Smirking in your superiority, you click the “Insert Movie from File” button and insert the first video. Fifteen minutes later all five of your awesome movies are inserted and you’re ready to do a test run of The Greatest, Most Awesomest PowerPoint Presentation In The World Ever™. You start the show and go through your mental checklist of all the things a PowerPoint presentation must have in order to be considered AWESOME.

  • Light blue, gradated background? Check.
  • Yellow Comic Sans header text? Check.
  • Typewriter or laser sound effects for each bullet point? Check.
  • Wacky and “cool” animations for every-god-damned-thing on each and every slide? Check.
  • Some slides filled top to bottom with 25 bullet points in 8 point font? Check.
  • Indecipherable charts using every color of the rainbow? Double check.
  • Video of polar bears playing with giant rubber balls? Che… what?

The video isn’t playing.

This can’t be happening. It’s not possible. You checked everything, you made sure… DOUBLY sure, that the videos worked before you inserted them into your presentation. You spend the next two fricking days trying to figure out what the problem is but nothing seems to work. You convert the files to WMVs (again), but that doesn’t help. You make sure the videos are in the same folder as your presentation, which they are. You change your computer’s video settings, to no avail. You do the whole Windows Update thing, including updating MS Office, but still no video. It’s enough to drive you completely mad!

You cannot believe that you’re going to crash and burn like poor, stupid Smitty.

Then, after clicking through your billionth search result you stumble upon a possible fix that is so utterly, ridiculously, stupendously simple that you cannot believe it could possibly be right. But, because you’re already at your wit’s end, you decide to give it a try.

And, by great Odin’s beard, it works.

Fina-FRICKING-ly, your videos play correctly in PowerPoint. The Greatest, Most Awesomest PowerPoint Presentation In The World Ever™ is ready to wow your boss and get you that pomotion you’ve always wanted. Even better, you still have three hours before you need to get up for work so you can get a little sleep.

Maybe even take a shower, praise the lord.

As you drift off to sleep your mind wanders back to the genius on that message board from 6 years ago who pointed you to the solution that just saved your butt. The fix was so simple that you didn’t even need a special program or hacker skill set to implement it. All you needed to do was… and you STILL can’t believe it… shorten the filename and/or file path of the videos. How crazy is that? Somehow, even though Windows itself allows filenames (including the file path) to be up to 255 characters in length, mplay32.exe (the actual video player PowerPoint 2003 uses to play videos) can’t play a file with a filename (including the file path) longer than 124 characters! How the hell ANYONE would ever figure out that THAT was the problem when their videos didn’t play in PowerPoint is beyond you. Lord knows Smitty would have peed himself and resigned before he ever figured it out. Lucky thing you found that old message board or you might have been weighing packages and stamping boxes eight hours a day like that poor SOB.

Ah, who are you kidding? You’re a fricking GENIUS!

So, let that be a lesson to us all. If you must include an insipid piece of video trash in your PowerPoint presentation, keep your file paths and names as short as possible or your fabulous videos may not play properly. And we all know that without those stupid fricking videos in PowerPoint all your presentations would suck anal lint from angry badgers.

And for god’s sake, stop using Comic Sans!