Monday, May 23, 2011

Dear e-Publishers

Update.--I found Barnes & Noble's free e-reader for Macs. That's something but not much because you need an account and you can only read books on their server, not downloaded from their Website.

As much as I'd love to tell all of you to f..k off, I'll be polite and won't say it, but it's what I want to say about you. Why? Well, for starters, Digital Rights Management (DRM) you embed in your publications, so the same book from each e-publisher can only be read by their e-book reader, how convenient, or you can buy DRM removal software and hope it works.

Why the anger? Well, since we lost the last big box bookstore in the Tacoma area and the closest (Borders or Barnes & Noble) are 15-20 miles distant) and all the small ones are next to useless for actually having any good assortment of books to browse. Some will order but good luck there as some have said they would but never call me to tell me the book is in.

So I thought I'd try the e-book for the first time. Well, Border's Website where I've had a reward card for years (when our local store opened) wouldn't recognize my card number and wouldn't recognize my e-mail saying it didn't match the card number, despite the store recognizing it all these years. Then it wouldn't let me create an account with the same excuses.

And without an on-line account you can't buy e-books from them. And Barnes & Noble created the account which I was able to buy a Nook book edition, except you need the Nook reader on the iPad to read it. Ok, the app is free but then the app doesn't allow uploading downloaded books, only those through the iPad app. How stupid is that?

I had to download the book from Barnes & Noble's Website twice, once to my Mac and to the iPad, except the Mac version can't be read by anything because of the DRM. Barnes & Noble doesn't make a Mac app to read Nook books. How stupid is that? You can get the book but not read it on your Mac?

Then when I downloaded it from them to the iPad it put a bunch of placeholders for "free" e-books in the list. Like I want them? And you can't remove the stupid links to them, only move them to archive, like I want to unarchive them? Give the user a break to control what's on their iPad. If I want the free book I'll look for it and download, I don't need your help.

And then Apple's iBookstore didn't have the book. At least Apple has tools to manage books through iTunes but the selection isn't all that great for readers of less popular books. I guess money and profit is more important than readership? They're great for music, but that makes money. Books apparently not unless it's a best seller, but then Apple's ibooks are also only available through the iPad and not their Website.

Fahrenheit 451, only digital. Or maybe Dumb Reader Management system, corporate Big Brother controls what you can access and how you read it. We don't trust you to actually have any intelligence, just live with what we give you. Well, ok, I'll do without e-pubs for awhile, at least until I find a solution, like buy DRM removal software.

Lucky there's more than one way to read a digital book, or is it skin an e-publisher?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

LF Update

As many of you who read my somewhat intermittent LF blog you will know I've been waiting on a Layton L45-A 4x5 camera made in Vermont. The camera was introduced in the spring of 2005 to great review and a design award. And the builder announced the first production run in the fall of 2005.

He offered lower prices to those who sent in deposits. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but let's review some information about him and the deal. First, he's a longtime respected photojournalism who's worked for several papers in New England over the years. He's also a respected large format photographer with a studio in his home town.

So, no camera? Yeah, no camera. After two years of delays and another two years of switching production companies (three at last count) the news went silent. His Website for the camera lapsed into another owner and he stopped showing his camera at shows. There are at about half a dozen people like me with deposits and there are numerous people who know him or have met him in the intervening years.

So, what's the problem? Well, no one seems to know. I have a hunch from his e-mail and communication with other photographers who know him. It appears he keeps changing the design to incorporate his latest ideas. Rather than produce the first model, get the money and have users let others know how good it (and it is by its design), and work on a new model, he keeps working on the first.

I don't understand it, but somehow the camera is probably in his shop waiting something, and the production company is probably also waiting something, like the go-ahead to finish the production. It's one of the best designed 4x5 field cameras in a generation. And it's 95+% finished (parts and assembly) for final production. And most of all for him, there are at least 6 people willing to write checks for the camera and lensboards.

Sadly I really don't understand, and what's worse is that he's no longer communicating about the camera or with us, but is with others on other forums. So I have three lenses waiting a camera. The other four work fine with my Horseman HD which I use but still it's not this camera.

There are people who make you scratch your head in wonder, a great opportunity so close and all within their power. And all we see is silence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hands off FERS/CSRS

Dear Mr President, Vice President and Congress,

As any good Tea Partier would say, "Hands Off!", but this time, the federal employees pension program. Don't tinker with the employees benefits plans and don't raid the trust fund. You've already busted their ass by freezing salaries and retirement annunities through 2012 and probably beyond at some future time for political purposes and you raised their health insurance premiums probaby 5+% this year and equally so each year beyond.

And now you want to tap the cash-rich pension trust fund? No! Because we know from your experience with Social Security, you don't pay us back. You've drained the SS system of over $5 Trillion and you haven't and can't pay it back, leaving it vulnerable to political tinkering as every politician has said and wants to do, lower benefits because it's broke, or will be in 2-3 decades. Never mind it's not broke, it's because you stole money from it.

And now you want to endanger the only secure pension plan any employee in this country, the last bastion of stability and guarranteed promises to government worker and retireees? When states are arguing to reduce pension benefits because they've not paid in enough and lost value from the financial crisis they didn't cause, you want to do the same to us?

I worked 32 years for the government, 4 in the USAF which I paid into my CSRS account and 28 with the Department of Interior. I earned and deserve my pension. I earned and deserve my Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan health insurance. I earned and deserve the right, as all active and retired federal employees, to have a say in this matter. We're not political fodder. We're what made and makes the government work.

We don't want to be some time in the future where the SS system is now where you've drained it and now demand concessions for your arrogance to workers, and use it to reduce it if not eliminate it completely as some Republicans want to do. It's not fair. We didn't cause the financial crisis. We didn't cause the debt limit political gamemanship. We didn't do anything but work hard for the American people.

The government isn't Wal-Mart or some giant corporation who's pension and health benefit plans you can raid because it's convenient and because you're too stupid to resolve matter correctly than cheaply. The government isn't Wal-Mart to dump work with low wages and poor benefits and expect great things. The government isn't just jobs but careers, America and Americans.

If the Democrats go after the anti-government employee sentiment for votes and political purposes and goals, then the government employees have lost the last people who worked for them in Washington D.C. We lose that because you joined the Republicans, Tea Party and Libertarians against government employees, you lose the government. Do you not see that?

Do you not see if we don't trust you Democrats we won't believe in you for us. We won't trust you anymore. We will know where your alliegiance lies, politics for votes, not loyalty to the government, to the employees who work for Americans and America. Don't screw us for your political games and gains. We have memories. We have a voice. And, remember, we vote too.

Screw us and you will hear from us and pay a political price as you use us. Touch what we've earned and deserve and you will see what we can do in 2012 and beyond. You want to be a political Judas? Is it worth the price? The future? The retirees? The current and next generation of government employees? The government itself?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

No New leases

Dear Mr. President,

Do not open off-shore waters and interior lands to new leases. There is no need or reason for the oil and gas industry to lock up more sites for drilling when they already hold thousands of leases on land and water they haven't even explored let alone produce oil and gas, some of them over a decade old. They, and we, meaning you, need to force them to use what they have, like the rest of us, and not demand more areas they won't explore for another 10 to 20 years.

It's a sham and a ripoff of America and Americans. They're rich with cash and they are raising prices on future oil and gas now (remember it takes 8-12 months to process oil into gasoline and prices now reflect what they and speculators think they want in 6-12 month).

They're rich with cash and they're refusing to explore the leases they have when they know there is oil there. They just want more leases they won't use and want to keep other companies from getting access to it. That's the real sham and the real shame if you let them get away with it.

You should be representing the American people and America against the energy companies, for us, not your political future or because you're afraid of voters in the 2012 election. Just say no to them. Protect our land and water. Make them explore and drill safely. Make them produce oil and gas from the leases they have.

Or are you in their pocket too? Yeah, we know you took a lot of campaign money from the energy companies. We know you balked at the BP disaster cleanup, penalties and compensation (how the last one going?). We saw it in your response and your capitulation to BP. We know you'll cave again and open up more areas the companies won't explore and drill.

We also know you're simply using politics to cut the tax credit and subsidies to the energy companies. We know you won't fight for them if the political fight gets tough. You're not for us on this issue, but simply playing politics. But it's not politics, it's the real world, our country at stake, something you can't just give away.

So, stand up to them and the Republicans with the truth. They know it will win the day. So what are you afraid of? We're not, but you don't seem to be on our side on this issue. How about a deal? How about a trade with the energy companies?

We will agree to new leases if they turn in any lease not explored let alone drilled for production over say 10 years old. The government gets back all those leases to offer again to new bidder and new prices. And if the companies want new leases, they get them in a one for one trade for unusued leases they have less than 10 years old.

In other words, use it or lose it. It's that simple. And it's that fair for America and Americans. It they want new leases, they lose decade old leases and trade with old leases. Both unusued, just in their pocket. They use it, they get the oil and gas. If they don't we get it back.

That's fair and right for us. So, are you on our side or theirs?

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Oxymoron

Everyone knows politicians deny reality, stretch the truth, and inflate the importance of their own views, all for their ego, money and votes. And both sides think the other side, the other party's politicians, are the worst, but in truth, that's not realtiy or the truth, and in the light of the facts the GOP and the truth are an oxymoron.

Listening to the recent presidential candidates for the Republican party in 2012, they all have denied or lied about their past, not just their personal lives but their political lives. They've all done exactly the opposite of what they're standing for and selling us today. And they all are still telling lies.

It's not cherry picking facts to make a story, as we know the Bush-Cheney administration did to sell the Iraq war, but about outright lies and lying about the past. There isn't anything Newt Gingrich has said about his past as spearker and representative is true. The Washington Post has a good article checking the facts he told but were lies.

And we see Mitt Romney denying his support for Democratic issues and as governor not just approving the Massachusetts healthcare law mandating health insurance for all residents but promoting it as the right way. And now he's criticizing the new healthcare law modelled after his state progam. And he expects you to forget.

And we know Speaker Boehner lies about taxes. Letting the Bush tax cuts die and cutting the oil and energy tax cuts expire isn't adding "new" taxes, but simply repealing the law granting them years ago and reinstating them now. It's not new taxes but old taxes. Tax increases maybe but not adding new taxes as new is defined.

But then again with the GOP history books and dictionaries aren't in the reality. It's easier for them to invent history as they want and then sell it as the truth and reality when nothing could be farther from the truth, and peddling such ideas is lying. It's that simple.

Michelle Bachman has to be the best at it, and worse, she does it, invents facts and spouts lies, on the Senate floor. Senator Kyl did it over abortion and had to change the official record, but it's on video guy, you can't hide from that. Senator McConnell, the minority leader, isn't to be trusted as far as he walks away from the podium. He agrees with the Democrats and President Obama and the lies he did to make more demands.

It's called the moving goal posts. Keep moving the middle to the right and you get what you originally want. And then keep agreeing until it's time to propose legislation and then change your mind to make more demands to move the middel or else. That they do with lies and lying. Promise then renege.

So much for honesty too these days. The GOP left that along side the road January 21, 2009.

The GOP and the truth is an oxymoron, just listen to their words. It's all they know, inventing facting and lying about their past. Truth and reality is never in their world anymore as the more extreme they move to the right the more they have to invent facts and lie about their past to sustain their view.

If all of them were Pinocchio, not one would have a normal nose. Except they're real live Pinocchios and their noses are obvious in the face of the truth and reality. They've decided being blind is easier than being human.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Don't Care

I don't care to remember when, where or what I was doing when I heard that Osama bin Laden was killed. I don't care to remember how he died. I don't f..cking care! And all this hype about him, the Navy Seals Team, the memory of everyone when they heard is pure media bullshit. Nothing else.

There is nothing important about his death that should make us remember when, where we heard, what we thought and felt, and why we should be proud about it. I won't argue who he is, what he did and what he may have been involved with in future terrorists acts. It doesn't change anything in the lives of Americans outside of 9/11.

That's the truth to me. I remember when I heard John Kennedy was killed. I remember about the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I remember the moon walk. And I remember 9/11. Those are events worth remembering.

The death of Osama bin Laden isn't even a whisper in a windstorm of our collective memory. We don't need to shout "USA" or stand up and cheer about his death. He was the leader of Al Qaeda who commited a terrorist act against the world in New York City and against the US in Washington DC and the farmland of Pennsylvania.

And nothing more to us. He was far worse to others, including Muslim, Arabs, women, and so on down the list. We're just one near the bottom of his anger, hate and rage. We don't need to immortalize him by remembering his death. We need to just forget him and focus on the future.

Disagree all you want, we're all entitled to have and to express our opinion. And mine is just that, mine, as is your opinion yours. Neither is better or worse, just different and our own. And I can say that I haven't watched any of the news about his death, nor care to.

I only read one article about his life which, to me, explained why he belongs to history and left there. And we shouldn't stand up to cheer ourselves for his death. We should deal with who's left after his death. They're the ones who will seek revenge. Let's not add to it by our in-their-face cheering about how great we think we are.

We're not. Our history is replete with our mistakes, our best intentions gone awry to come back and bite us big time. We didn't create Osama bin Laden, but we we certainly gave him reasons to hate us. We didn't help him, but we sure helped his cause with our actions. We didn't help him hide, but we certainly didn't capture him when we had the chances.

We didn't need to capture or kill him, but now we certainly did elevate him to martyr status and create a generation of terrorists who hates us more. That's not something to cheer. Not something to yell in their face. Not something to show the world our arrogance.

He's gone. Let's leave it at that.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts about the news this week.

Since Osama bin Laden has been killed and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is numbered less than 100 and less than a few hundred total, exactly why are we in Afghanistan now? Didn't we just win against the terrorists who masterminded and conducted the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

And if we won, what else beyond nation building, which clearly hasn't worked, isn't working, and won't work, is there reason to be in Afghanistan? To fight the Taliban and keep them from regaining control of the government and country? Like they can and would actually do that with all the people against them?

Are we really there to ensure a stable government will survive without our continued financial aid, military support, supplies and money, and infrastructure development? Will they ever do that and give up all that money and military support, meaning arms, weapons, training, and money?

What if we decided we're done and just left? Aren't they addicted to our money as we're addicted to their cocaine? Except we, the taxpayers, are paying the costs of both, there and here. So exactly what are we winning now?

Wal-Mart announced the "creation" of 4,000 jobs in South Caroline over the next five years when they expand their network of stores throughout the state. Really create jobs? Or will they just cause all the local business to fail keep their customes and close or go bankrupt because they can't compete with Wal-Mart for customers?

And will all those jobs be anything more that regular low-wage jobs Wal-Mart has in every store across the country? Will they really add to the economy or just replace the diversity of local businesses with one big box store which then controls the market in the area?

Is Wal-Mart's statement a new reality of the future there, all those jobs, formerly in diverse businesses with people who have the freedom to choose where they work and where they shop, now under one employer who can and will dictate terms of the employment and consumer choice in the local economy?

So in five years when all those stores are operating, how many businesses will be lost and how many employees now working for Wal-Mart, unemployed or moved away to other jobs? Will new jobs just be another job for the same people?

The breech of Sony's platstation users' accounts by professional hackers and thieves. Let's see, that's 77 million users' account information now somewhere other than Sony's database, all for sale to others. How many of those will now have to get their credit checked and have problems in the future?

Do all those 77 million people feel safe now with Sony's confidence for their computer security? And we expect anything from Congress but a lot of noise and mostly hot air about it? Like Congress can and will actually do something? And what if they did, could they do to help all those 77 million users who face credit problems from stolen accounts?

And we'll ever know who conducted the break-in and they'll ever be caught, prosecuted and sentenced? Isn't always the victims who pays in the end? The criminals rarely get caught, let alone pay for the damage done. The politicians shout about rights and protections and then do nothing. And the corporations apologize and promise, and then do nothing.

And the only one who can't do nothing is the victims. They'll always pay the price for everyone else's acts.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Harm than Good

Update.-- I read the Navy Seals who conducted the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound really executed him. He was unarmed and not putting up any defense. He was simply shot. Ok, I can live with it considering what he's done, but why not say that in the announcement than hide behind a self-defense argument?

While the vast majority people in and from the Middle East applaud the death of Osama bin Laden, some don't and won't, and now knowing he was executed won't help us since they'll be more energized against us. I won't argue Al Qaeda is in its waning years as their host countries dwindle to a handful and we're focused on them now, but let's not kid ourselves into believing he was the movement anymore. A symbol yes, but the leader, no. And now a martyr.

I was reading this morning about President Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden and his quick burial at sea, which is strange considering the distance involved, but not when you consider the politics of keeping his grave from becoming a shrine. Anyway, I wonder about the US engaging in a firefight in the town of Abbottabad, which is home to the Pakistan's military training academy.

While it seems to me to know where Osama bin Laden has been hiding all these years, and I realized many Americans want personal closure for 9/11, I'm not sure it was a good thing to kill him, but rather more to let him die without any US help. Now we have the vast number of supporters of Al Qaeda around the world energized against the US.

In short, while it was good to get closure, that closure has opened a new door in the fight against Al Qaeda, by painting a target on every American everywhere, but more so every American installation in foreign countries and against every American in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have bulleyes on our backs.

It's one thing to be proud of your country, your nation and the people, as I have served my country in the military and civilian service, but it's another to be arrogant beyond reality. And we are an arrogant people, proud to the point we think we are the best and angry when proven wrong or hit hard enough to feel real pain.

The attacks on 9/11 showed that. It was a statement against the World, remembering people from over 100 nations died in the WTC buildings and in the aftermath. The attacks showed we were blind to our own global view of the world and relations with other countries, treating them as puppets than soverign nations. And Al Qaeda punched us in the nose, and bloodied it badly.

But we survived, proudly, but we should not survive arrogant. But I think this was a case of our arrogance. We went in alone, obviously with the tacit approval of the Pakistan government, and we killed Osama bin Laden and others, capturing the rest, and then we quickly departed with those captives and bodies. Where are they now?

We have become to think we are the world's police against terrorism, and for all the wrong reasons and beliefs. We shouldn't be the world's police against terrorism because it automatically makes us the biggest and fattest target. Everywhere. Everyone. Americans will no longer be safe in many countries.

Pride is one thing, a good thing, but pride beyond common sense and humility is not a good thing. It's arrogance beyond any sense of reality. We have become an angry nation since 9/11. The military and more so intelligence have grown beyond any real need for the defense of this country and protection of Americans.

It's grown into making us a military and intelligence based nation where everyone, including everyone here, are suspected terrorists and will be, and has been on occasion, treated as terrorists suspenending our rights, liberties and protections guarranteed under the Constitution.

We have traded a false sense of our rights for the security of this country and war against terrorists. There are far more things more important than that fight. But politicians, including his President, has made it appear it's our most important fight. It's not. It's something to be done, but not at the price we've paid.

The price in cost of two wars, one which could have been quick (Afghanistan) and one which was totally unnecessary (Iraq). All in the name of arrogance and global politics. Pride in the first one and oil in the second. Ourselves in the first and energy corporations in the second. And now we think we have won, but it's only one day in many more to come.

The worst is yet to come. In Afghanistan. In Iraq. And everywhere Americans are or travel. We have become the enemy once again. And while they don't have the sheer force to match us, they can, and I bet will, bloody our nose again, and keep trying, making us drain the bank account of our future generations to fight back.

They spend pennies and lives, we spend billions on credit. Is this really a fight against terrorists or one of economics?

More American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 than in the WTC and Pentagon attacks. And these lives were at our choosing. We sacrificed more than they took. For what? Osama bin Laden? And we arrogantly stand there and say it was worth the fight? All those soldiers?


The answer to me is yes and no. I would argue it could have and should have been done not just differently but better. We sacrificed a quick victory in Afghanistan, including capturing or killing Osama bin Laden in 2002-03 if it not for the illegal diversion of funds for Aghanistan by Bush and Cheney to prepare for war against Iraq. And we know what has happened in both places.

Two countries we can't leave, and will continue to stay for imaginary reason of global politics giving politicians the fodder to create fear of terrorists and win money for more military and intelligence, ultimately turned against us. And we, in our arrogance, will think it's a good thing. A national thing. An American thing.

But is it really? Or just a political sham and game for power and money. Was Osama bin Laden worth all these past years? Was it worth the price to our country, to our nation, to our international reputation and standing, to ourselves?

We each have our own answer, as have I, but what of our collective answer? One that is honest and truthful than arrogant and expensives in lives lost since, money long spent, and a debt grown larger? Will we think in the future it was worth it? Or will we see the truth and reality of it?

What will we think then? What will the future generations think? Think of us? Rather than look in the past for closure, maybe we should have looked to the future? And decided what is and will be best for then and them?