Friday, May 19, 2017

Net Neutrality

As part of the Republicans march to eliminate every regulation that big business opposes, we move to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They are about to eliminate one of the pillars of the open internet. A practice that has been in place since the inception of the internet.

That pillar is net neutrality. Many people have no idea what that means or how it affects then. Simply put, internet providers like your cable or phone company can not discriminate against or favor any content. They can't charge more or less for providing Netflix over a local startup content. They also can't throttle or favor one content provider or website over another. All traffic is treated the same. 

The technicalities are more complicated, but once the content is on the backbone internet, it is all treated exactly the same. Getting the traffic onto or off of the backbone is where different levels of service have always been allowed although. It is the "last mile" or last 50 ft. or the cell network that we pay for. Netflix and Google have a need to dump mass quantities of data onto the internet backbone, so they have huge and numerous network pipes to do that. On the other hand, I have a TV, phone, tablet and PC which don't require huge bandwidth so I pay less for my connection. 

I realize that this is a technical issue and most people don't understand or care about the issue. You will care once net neutrality is eliminated. Internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Time-Warner and others will be able to discriminate. They can charge more, prioritize, throttle or maybe even refuse content. An example would be Netflix. Many of the big internet providers also provide content that is delivered over their infrastructure. Either their own or on their cable/satellite TV services. So, they give priority to their own content and provide it for free. Netflix content get's throttled unless they pay a ransom. Netflix will pass that increased cost onto its customers. Will the internet providers reduce your cost because Netflix or YouTube are paying more? Of course not. 

There are other potential problems. Small startup companies may not be able to pay extra or may not get volume discounts to be able to compete with the big boys. 

Net neutrality gives everybody a chance. The big guys and the small fry. It's elimination only favors the big internet service providers. It is a typical Republican deregulation move. The big corporations profit and the consumers pay. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is a former Associate General Counsel for Verizon. One of the companies that will profit from the elimination of net neutrality regulations. Enough said. 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Armed America

Don't Mess With Texas

It seems to me we are more and more arming the American population. It is definitely happening in Texas. Texas already has a relatively lax set of concealed/open carry laws. When the laws regulating gun carrying were first enacted, there were several restrictions. The handgun had to be concealed. There were many places where a gun could not be carried even with a carry permit. 

In 2015, the concealed carry laws were modified to allow open carry. That means a now License to Carry (LTC) permit holder could strap a six gun to their hip just like Matt Dillon did in the 1870's. When the law first went into effect in January 2016, I saw several guys walking around with exposed guns. I must say it was a little disconcerting, mostly because those toting a gun did not look like the most mature or intelligent folks. Since then, the openly exposed gun toters have decreased. I assume they are still carrying concealed guns. It has always been legal to openly carry a long gun (rifle) in public even without an LTC. That right is usually reserved for demonstrations of some kind. While the gun rack in the pickup truck rear window is now usually empty, I still see a few rifles or shotguns.  

One of the ironies today is that when I was growing up, I had very realistic toy and cap guns. No one every questioned 10 year olds walking around with a fancy holster and almost perfect replica of a Roy Rodgers six gun. Now, there are laws banning realistic toy guns and kids get shot by cops for having one. Progress? Safer? 

The Texas legislature has steadily reduced the number and types of places that can totally ban guns. Public Texas universities and colleges can no longer have a blanket ban on guns on campus. Private universities still have an option and most have opted to continue their ban on campus carry.

This year the Texas legislature voted to reduce the license fee for gun carry permits. First-time license fees will drop from $140 to $40 and renewal fees go from $70 to $40. 

Since guns are bulky, fairly expensive and require a license to carry, some Texans need another means of self-defense. Our legislature is working on a bill to allow carrying knives over 5½ inches long. A couple of years ago, Texas invalidated all local knife laws that were more restrictive than the state laws. I'm guessing Crocodile Dundee can now visit Texas. Maybe Jim Bowie can return to the Alamo too.

After the wild west faded in the late 19th century, side arms use drastically declined. Now it is ramping up again and I'm not sure why. That's a topic for another post. I am sure that there are far more people carrying guns in Fort Worth now than in 1900-01 when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid visited town. 

If I get shot or stabbed because of the loosening of the gun and knife laws, I'm going to be pissed. If I get killed, I'm going to be really... Oh, nevermind, I'm going to be dead. 

Next up will probably be legal grenade launchers and missiles on the legislature calendar.

Didn't Wyatt Earp ban handguns in Dodge City? Was he way ahead or way behind his time?


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - April 2017

  • Isn't draining a swamp environmentally destructive? Oh, nevermind, we no longer give a shit about the environment.
  • Why does the world get so upset when chemicals are used to kill people yet can ignore years of bombing and killing those same populations? 
  • Most things slow down as we age. One exception is how quickly I can now forget stuff.
  • No wonder nothing gets done in Washington. Every meeting, committee, panel, etc. is huge. Anyone who has ever been in business knows big meetings assure few or no results. 
  • We have become a society of victims. Victims looking to sue for a big settlement. 
  • Most conspiracy theorists are anti-government. They think our government is incompetent yet they believe that same government can pull off vast conspiracies and keep them a secret for decades. Seems contradictory. 
  • So let me get this right. Fox News released Bill O'Reilly because of sexual harassment allegations that were paid off to keep quiet. Yet, Fox News knew about the allegations and helped O'Reilly make those payments.  
  • Should we say "thank you" when Alexa, Siri or Google answers a question or performs a task? I think so.
  • Is Adam Sandler the most over rated, over paid comedian or is it Kevin James?
  • What's the difference between sauce and gravy?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - March 2017

  • You can't fact check feelings.
  • Why are there braille keys and audio instructions on a drive-up ATM? 
  • Who are backseat drivers going to yell at when we all have self-driving cars?
  • Same vein, what will Google or Siri say when the kids keep asking "are we there yet"?
  • Will the automated driver threaten to "stop this car right now" when the kids are misbehaving?
  • Amazing. Ian McCaw, the former Baylor athletic director, who was placed on probation and later resigned due to the school's sexual assault scandal has a new job. He is now the athletic director at another alleged "Christian" institution, Liberty University. Are Liberty football players now allowed to rape female students?
  • Are people so needy that they require "likes", comments and "shares" on Facebook? 
  • Please explain this to me. People who have survived some dangerous situation say that God &/or Christ was looking out for them. Often that same situation includes others who died. What was god looking at then?
  • Seems like whenever government is involved in something that went awry, a spokesperson says that they followed all their procedures. Not common sense or good judgment but procedures. We probably need fewer procedures and more common sense.
  • Do you ever refer to someone as "that old person" only to realize they may be younger than you?
  • It always amazes me how stars of TV series can recover from life-threatening wounds in time for the following week's episode. Seem like Matt Dillon got shot two or three times a season, yet never missed a show. 
  • Isn't it great when you really want something to eat/drink and you're not sure if you have any in the kitchen then you find that something? It could be the last piece of pie or cake, a few spoonfuls of ice cream, leftovers from a favorite meal, the last beer in the fridge, etc. 
  • Of course, the opposite is also true when all of that something is really gone. Crestfallen disappointment. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kroger Automation

A few weeks ago Kroger updated the software on their self-checkout stations. They are very annoying. By the time I can attach two reusable bags to the frames, it asks 5 or 6 times "are you using your own bags?". The attendant now has to come to your station and scan their badge to approve beer & wine purchases. It announces the price of each item and immediately tells you to place the item in the bag. On produce, when you enter the PLU # or name, it repeats every number or letter you key in. It repeats your total bill when you hit the "pay now" button and then proceeds to give excruciatingly detailed instructions on how to check out. Of course, Chatty Kroger Kathy reminds you to remove your bags and take your receipt before leaving, multiple times. Please and thank you apparently aren't in the new vocabulary.

I realize that the self-checkout kiosks need to verbalize some instructions, especially for newbies. But do they have to browbeat the customer and not allow even a nanosecond to elapse for an action to be completed before a scolding? "Resistance is futile."

I know, why don't I just go to a human cashier? The main reason is that I normally ride my bike to the grocery store. That means I have a limited amount of cargo space. It also means that the ride home is easier and safer if the load is balanced. It doesn't have to be exact, but I don't want 25 lbs. in one sack and only a bag of chips in the other. I might tip over. Cashiers and baggers have no clue about that. They are used to putting just a couple of items into those plastic bags. Besides balance, when you load up two reusable bags there is a good chance that the crushable stuff will wind up on the bottom. It gets even more crushed during a bumpy bike ride home. I don't have shocks on my bicycles.

So you see, I'm stuck between two dilemmas. I either put up with an annoying automated bitch or less than competent bagging.

The old self-checkout software was OK, only annoying at times, not always. I wonder how many marketing, design, and psychology geniuses worked on this new improved customer interface? Or maybe they just let the antisocial geek programmer in the back of the IT department write it without any input. Either way, I'm sure nobody involved with the upgrade actually uses self-checkout.

I fully realize that this is a first-world problem but hey, I live in a first-world country.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Brain Farts III

  • Was baking some sweet potatoes the other night and fell asleep. Luckily precision timing isn't required. They sure were tender. And delicious.
  • You can't go to a liquor store on a Sunday in Texas. Well, you can go to the store but it will be closed.
  • A pesky gnat was annoying me while I was watching TV. Thought it landed on my leg so I gave it a fast hard slap. Turns out the gnat on my leg was actually a very small scab. That scab is now dead. The gnat is going strong.
  • Went to the dark kitchen during a commercial. Opened the fridge, grabbed a beer and tried to put it in the koozie I had in my hand. Seems you have to remove the empty before inserting a fresh beverage. 
  • Got up from my chair, grabbed the dirty plate and glass, then headed straight to the bathroom. I guess technically you can wash your dishes in the bathroom but I usually prefer the dishwasher. My dishwasher happens to be located in the kitchen.
  • Put a beer in the freezer when I got home from the store. Then a friend called and I went to her house. That beer was damn solid when I got home.
  • On the same return trip, I failed to zip my bike seat bag that had my money, credit cards and keys in it. It's hard to unlock the door without keys. Retraced my route and luckily found the keys on the street. Also lucky the money and credit cards didn't fall out.
  • I broke a bottle on the kitchen floor. Vacuumed and mopped. Of course a couple of days later I found a glass sliver with my foot. Deep enough to draw blood. I decided to pull it out with my fingers instead of tweezers. Now I have a bleeding foot and finger. Double the pleasure.
  • Over the years as I age, I've gotten a little better about making notes to remind me of stuff. Now, I'm finding that often I have no idea what the note means or what I was trying to remind myself about.  CRS (Can't Remember Shit) disease is a real affliction. 
  • I now have to set a kitchen timer and a timer on my phone or Google Home when I am cooking. I often don't hear the kitchen timer. The phone is usually closer to me and more persistent. Hearing and brains both deteriorate. 
  • I had left my koozie on the counter next to the fridge the night before. After a bike ride, I grabbed a beer and put it on the same counter. Then I picked up the koozie and put it in the cabinet. Of course, I then opened the cabinet and grabbed my koozie. All's well that ends well.
  • I put the cucumber skins and a lettuce core into a used baggie so it wouldn't stink up the place or draw gnats. Instead of throwing it into the garbage, I put it back in the fridge.  
  • I discovered tonight that when watching Netflix on my Roku, my DVR remote will not pause, fast forward or rewind the program.
  • I have determined through experience that when you turn on the wrong burner, it takes damn near forever to cook the food. It seems to get stuck at room temperature.
  • There is no need to start the kitchen timer before you put the food in the oven. I've never seen a recipe that started with "leave uncooked food on counter 12 minutes at 72°".
  • How long does it take to brew a cup of hot tea in the fridge? I mistakenly tried to find out the other day.  
  • Sometimes I put something down, like keys or glasses, in a place not normal but convenient at the time. I often think when I do it that I won't remember where I left my stuff. That thought is about 98% correct.
  • If a thought pops into my head that needs some internet answer, verification or just further information, I can lose that thought before I can get to the bookmarks tab. That's even when I'm already on the computer or phone.
  • There is no need to put the pepper mill in the fridge after using.
  • Wrote a check to pay a bill. Noted the check number on the bill then filed the CHECK with the paid bills. 
  • I have found that you are much more likely to get a response to a text or email if you actually send it to the intended recipient. 
  • I have one of those watches/fitness bands that the screen comes on when you raise your arm and turn your wrist. I was in a dark room and did the required arm movement to see what time it was. The screen didn't come on so I tried again, same result. One more try and I started to reach to push the button on the watch. At that moment, I remembered that it was on the nightstand charging. BTW, it was 6:42 AM.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - February 2017

  • In February, you have to cram a whole month's worth of random thoughts into only 28 days.
  • We have become so used to constant noise that if there are more than a couple of seconds of silence on the TV we think it is technical difficulty.
  • Be very suspicious when you hear politicians and others say things like "always", "never", "worst or best ever", "first time ever"... Or now when Trump says "tremendous","fantastic", "huge", "believe me", "trust me"
  • I have at least nine pairs of readers scattered around the apartment. I also have a pair I leave at a friend's house. Does this seem excessive? Of course I still often don't have a pair within reach when I need them.
  • Is the new Big Mac Jr. an oxymoron?
  • You don't see as many quicksand accidents on TV as you used too. That used to be a staple danger in old Westerns and adventure shows.
  • Style, not substance. The messenger, not the message. Form, not facts. 
  • Why does honey have a "best by" date? Honey lasts for centuries. 
  • I think Fox News and MSNBC should be forced to share offices and on-air shows. It might thin the herd of talking head BS "analysts" (there would probably be a body count). It would also present both extreme sides of the issue so people could decide for themselves. Hyperbole from both sides might cancel out. Better than fake reality TV.
  • Even the science fiction writers of the last few decades did not predict the advancements in technology. Our smartphones are better than the communicators and comm badges on Star Trek. Google is at least as smart as the Enterprise computer. Holodecks are probably close. But, we still don't have transporters and warp drives.
  • That rolling down the window gesture has no meaning or connection to the youth of today. Power windows their whole life. I guess you have to text people now or maybe knock on the window if you're close enough.
  • Was listening to music and "Black Magic Woman" by Santana came on. Is that song about a Black woman who is magic or a woman of indeterminate race who practices black magic?
  • I'm beginning to think all those tests on Facebook are not entirely honest. "Most people can only answer 4 out of 10 correctly". "Only 1 in 50 will get this right". Either that or everyone I know is a genius. #clickbait