Monthly Archives: February 2011

I Stand in Solidarity with Union Workers of Wisconsin

I am not a member of any union and I probably never will, however, my mother was a Teamster the entire time she worked. My mother was a bus driver for the city of Billings for 40 odd years. The day she retired, she made something like $14 an hour. Think about this for a minute, my mother after 40 years of work made $14 an hour, that is less than $30K a year, she raised five children on that. In spite of this, she got two benefits that were extremely important. First, she got health insurance for herself and her children. This had a direct positive effect on my life and the lives of my siblings. Had my mother had to pay for all my brothers broken bones or those trips to the doctor when I contracted the Hong Kong flu, we would have starved to death, or been out on the street. The second thing she received was a pension, this pension allows her to be retired in relative comfort without having to move in with me. Without the Teamsters Union collectively bargaining for my mother directly and me indirectly, my life would have been significantly different.

Steganography

File encryption is something that has interested me for almost as long as I have been interested in computers. The biggest problem with encryption is the weakest link is usually the person who knows the password.

The real trick to encryption is hiding the fact that there is encrypted data at all. Steganography is the act of hiding encrypted data within a perfectly innocent media file. This morning I read “Real Steganography with TrueCrypt” on how to do this using TrueCrypt, which is a fairly easy to use cross platform file encryption program.

Actually, this whole post was just an excuse to repost one of my favorite XKCD panels.

Somedays all you can do is shake your head

Apparently State Senator Bill Ketron and State Representative Judd Matheny of Tennessee want to demonstrate just how badly American schools teach the U.S. Constitution. Both of these men have introduced identical bills into the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives which, if passed, would outlaw the practice of Shariah law in the state of Tennessee and gives the State Attorney General the ability to investigate citizens who might be practising Shariah law.

Really quick, lets review what the Constitution has to say about religious freedom.

Amendment 1 – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Am I the only one who sees an issue here ? I understand that conservatives don’t really like the idea of multiculturalism. I understand that Christians as a rule tend to disdain other religions. I also understand this is a bill being introduced into a state legislature and not a federal level bill. But really, I mean seriously REALLY ? The good thing here is this bill will probably not pass, the sad thing is they are actually debating it instead of laughing these two idiots out of office.

Sorry for the long silence

Life has not been good for me the last couple of weeks, I am sorry, I should have posted something earlier and at least indicated I would not be posting for a while. I should be back to blogging next week. I am sure all 3 of my loyal readers will be excited about that.

Review: Roku

For those of you who don’t know, the Roku is a small little box designed to stream internet video from sources like Netflix and Hulu. Previously to get these services to my TV set I had an old laptop hooked up to my TV set through S-Video, needless to say, this was a bit of a pain to deal with. The idea behind the Roku, is to make this as easy to do as using a Tivo or other DVR device. I went ahead and bought the top of the line Roku, although my TV can not take full advantage it, figuring at some point I will be replacing my 5 year old big screen rear projection TV.

My first thought when I picked up the Roku, was the extreme small size of the device, it is a mere 5x5x2 inches and weighs less than my Kindle. When I plugged it into the TV and turned it on I had to go through a short set up to get it connected to my wireless network and link the device to my Roku account. Once that was done, I had to link my device to my Netflix and Hulu accounts, which was pretty easy. After that I was able to stream all the content I use to run through my WII and that old laptop. The biggest advantage being a remote control instead of a trackpad/keyboard of the laptop or the wanky WII remote. Additionally, it was pretty easy to get YouTube access on the Roku, through a third party app channel.

I think this little box could theoretically replace cable TV. Right now I pay about $25 a month for basic cable, which gives me about 20 channels, of which I consistently watch three. My Netflix account costs me $9.99 a month, Hulu Plus costs me $7.99 per month. The big problem of course is there is no CBS content on Hulu, so I can not get shows like The Big Bang Theory. Of course even those shows eventually makes it to DVD and I can cycle it through Netflix as a DVD rather than streaming. Another nice feature of streaming video is I am not tied to my TV set, because I can stream both Netflix and Hulu to my computers as well, something that is a pain in the ass for broadcast or even cable TV.

While the Roku is neat little contraption which makes watching Internet streams easier to deal with and I think it is an evolutionary step in watching TV, I do not think this will have the impact the Tivo had. The functionality of the Tivo was so powerful the cable companies had to integrate DVR functionality into their cable boxes where they retained control of the content. The Roku on the other hand simply makes something that is mildly annoying much easier to do.

If you already use Netflix and Hulu, the Roku is a nice way to access that content and I highly recommend it. On the other hand if you are a traditional TV watcher, stick with your Tivo or whatever DVR you are using, unless you are looking to cut your cable bill..

I have a bad feeling about this

My anxiety levels are up through the roof. There are things happening in my life that are causing a lot of agitation. I have not slept well for several days and even when I do sleep, I have anxiety dreams. I don’t want to walk away, I want to RUN away. I really desperately need a mega dose of prosaic, barring that, I need to smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink enough gin to shut my conscience mind down for a good solid 12  hours.

Funny 70′s pictures

Here is another picture of me from the history books. I think this was my 7th grade school picture. I have two thoughts when I look at this picture. One, “God, when was I ever that young ?” and Two, “I wish I still had that T-shirt, I could probably sell it for $500.”.

I am Slacker, Hear Me Snore !

Here is my biggest problem with American life. We Americans confuse standard of living with quality of life. To put it more clearly, we have this puritan work ethic that forces us to work longer hours, take fewer vacations and generally work our selves into an early grave just so we can afford a bigger TV than the Jones down the street. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, but I don’t like it. If you want to see why so many of us are stressed, hate our jobs and hate our lives, there is the reason right there.

What Ronald Reagan was to me.

1984 was the first Presidental election I ever voted in and I voted for Ronald Reagan. I mention this only to lay down a marker for where I was politically in 1984.  You see, I credit Ronald Reagan with starting my leftward drift on the political spectrum. During the Iran/Contra scandal, like almost everyone else at the time, I was glued to the TV watching the proceedings. As I sat there watching Oliver North, John Poindexter and even Ronald Reagan himself, so blatantly and without a shred of conscience lie to us, I remember thinking, “These people do not have my best interests at heart.”.

Sadly, this shut down half of Texas