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Mon, 27 Jan 2014

Overheard

— SjG @ 9:25 am

Coffee shop, West Los Angeles.

Angry Guy: You can’t pass a law to take away people’s guns and claim it’s to make things safer. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Other Angry Guy: Yes, that’s why we’re passing a law to only take away the bad guys’ guns.

AG: How do you know who the bad guys are? It’s not that simple!

OAG: Exactly! So let’s discuss the topic like adults, and drop the kindergartener’s vocabulary of good guys and bad guys.

AG: Don’t insult me, you arrogant son of a bitch!

OAG: Then raise the fucking discourse to an adult level.

AG: I’m not going to sit here and argue with a goddamn communist!


Mon, 7 Oct 2013

Dear Mr. Speaker

— SjG @ 8:02 pm

Dear Speaker Boerner,

I had thought that the current shutdown was simply obstructionism and petulance over the recent elections, but now I’m beginning to understand. You have realized that the hijacking of the Republican party by mad ideologues is untenable, and, for the good of the country, are euthanizing the party. It’s a good plan. At least you will leave a legacy of having taken decisive action, and putting the interests of the American People above petty politics. I congratulate you on your resolve.

Sincerely,
Samuel


Thu, 24 Jan 2013

Conspiracy Theory

— SjG @ 9:58 pm

I don’t get these people who think Sandy Hook was a evil conspiracy on the part of Obama to take away their guns.

Clearly they didn’t listen to Henry Peterson, when he said “Follow the money, Earl, because that’s where it’s going to be.”

Anecdotally, after Sandy Hook (and Aurora, and … and …) gun sales were up significantly, as were NRA memberships, and ammo supplies have been slammed worse than they’ve been since the months immediately after the 2008 election1.

If there’s any conspiracy2, I’d be looking at the armaments industry, not at the President.

But then again, I prefer Occam’s razor to his bayonet.

1 Remember how, even well into 2010, it was nearly impossible to find .380ACP?
2 There isn’t. Let’s face it. We’re a violent culture, and an alienating culture. A lot of people are not only alienated, but depressed. Some people are mentally ill. Some are medicated. Some snap. There’s no conspiracy; it’s a structural problem.


Sun, 6 May 2012

My Fan Club

— SjG @ 3:20 pm

So the server that operates the security cameras at the house suddenly started making a nasty wheezy noise. The periodicity of the noise suggested a fan bearing going bad or running dry.

So I shut the machine down, and tore it apart. I disassembled and lubed the case- and power-supply fans. I put everything back together and fired up the machine, but the noise was still there. I tried to remove the CPU heat-sink fan, but it’s held in by plastic snappers, and I didn’t want to fight with them. In the end, I went on e-Bay and ordered replacement case- and power supply fans, along with a new CPU heat-sink / fan assembly.

The new stuff arrived Thursday, and I swapped out the old stuff. Then reassembled. The noise was still there. I started pulling my hair out.

Today, I was going to solve it, or die trying. I unplugged the hard drive and the CD drive. Still made the noise. I unplugged the case fan. Still made the noise. I unplugged the CPU heat-sink fan. Still made the noise. I physically moved the power supply away, while powering the chassis. At this point, there are no moving parts whatsoever within the chassis. Still noisy!

When I finally stopped punching the wall and kicking the cat, I leaned my head into the machine, and tried to find the source of the noise. And there it was. The crappy little graphics card’s heat sink has a fan in it, completely obscured from view. I pulled the card, tore it apart, and lubed the fan, and now, finally, the machine runs silently again.

I think if I ever rebuild the thing, it’s going to be 100% solid state.

Filed in:

Fri, 20 Jan 2012

A Modest Proposal

— SjG @ 9:45 am

Property owners in the United States1 pay property tax. While it makes the Randists froth at the mouth, the reason for this is quite pragmatic: people pay for the infrastructure, defense, and other public services in their communities that support their property. The theory is that a homeowner, for example, has a vested interest in the neighborhood roads being maintained, in having an active fire department, and so on. Similarly, businesses rely on decent roads, an educated workforce, and similar services to do business. We all depend on law enforcement and our defense forces to keep us safe from criminals and the odd invasion.

With the exception of the aforementioned Randists and related lunatics, everyone agrees that the concept of property tax is reasonable. We may all argue about what falls within the realm of appropriate services or infrastructure, and we all feel that our own particular property tax burden is too great, but we agree that there are necessities that we need to help pay for.

Recent events (e.g., the SOPA/PIPA debacle) have brought intellectual property into the spotlight. Corporations owning music, film, and book copyrights are justly upset about the degree of “piracy” taking place on the Internet. While the numbers they present as their financial losses have been widely debunked, there are, in fact, actual losses. So they spend a lot of money lobbying and contributing to political campaigns, and we get fiascos like SOPA/PIPA.

Similarly, we have a patent system that’s wildly out of control. People can and do patent ideas that are …er… patently obvious, or tiny increments over widespread practice. Those patents are then used to suppress whole classes of technologies and programs. Technology companies like Apple, Unisys, and SCO are notoriously litigious, and have often succeeded in using the legal system to suppress competition via patents. Patent trolls or patent clearing houses leverage ridiculous patents to essentially blackmail programmers for ideas that can be found in textbooks. We see small players put out of business on a regular basis, often because they can’t afford to defend against spurious patent claims.

It got me thinking. As a homeowner, I pay annual taxes, commensurate with the value of my house. This money, in effect, pays to protect the value of my property.

The “Content Industry” (RIAA/MPAA) and technology companies claim a great deal of value for their intellectual property, but rely on public money to defend that value. Sure, they pay lawyers, but they use my public courts and (attempt to) pass ever more restrictive laws to protect their assets. A huge amount of government time and public money is wasted on these cases, and we find congress ignoring important issues to focus on extending copyright ad infinitum. The public cost due to lost innovation is staggering2. It’s time for the intellectual property owners to share the burden of that cost. It’s time for a tax on intellectual property.

Intellectual property is hard to appraise for value — thus the owner should be allowed to declare what that value is. The catch is that they will be taxed on that declared value. Like most other property taxes, the value will be appraised on a yearly basis, with limits on the maximum amount of change from one year to the next. If owners decide their property is worth a great deal, then they can pay a great deal to help defend it. If they decide it’s worth nothing, then they cannot claim huge damages when it is not protected and the property is infringed upon.

Intellectual Property Tax. It’s only fair.

1 Most countries have some form of property tax, even if it’s not exactly the same thing as in the US.
2 Patents are, by their nature, designed to foster innovation by giving owners a temporary monopoly. We agree to tweak an otherwise free market to encourage people and companies to invest time into research and development. This system only works if, in fact, the kinds of things that are granted this protection are actual innovations rather than mundane and obvious incremental improvements. As they exist today patents are largely abused, and actually end up preventing new ideas from reaching the market while increasing the cost of products that do.