Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dove & Cynicism

Not to be cynical...

OK, let us be serious: I'm a cynical person. When I first became aware of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the blatant hypocrisy was almost painful. It would be like Xe (formerly Blackwater) starting a petition for peace in Iraq. 

The focus of much of the campaign seems to be about weight - as far as I am aware, Dove doesn't sell any products that claim to assist in weight loss. A safe attempt then, that is unlikely to ostracize any of their current market, and is an easy way to sell self-esteem. 

Not to mention the fact that Unilever also owns Axe, whose commercials treat women quite clearly as a prize to be won... but only if you wear their products. 

But it's really just a clever marketing strategy: in today's hyper-commercialized, fake-sympathy advertising, the angle was bound to be snapped up by a competitor. And really, I'm willing to put money on this campaign improving people's view of Dove. "They don't sell things, they sell tools for women to empower themselves, to project outer beauty to accentuate their inner womanhood..." Cue motivational pseudo-feminist propaganda reel. 

It's a good business strategy. If I was BP right now, I'd be trying to hire the brains that came up with it.

Not made to measure baby
One size does not fit all

~Made to Measure (by My Ruin) 


"Sorry for not posting recently, I've been going through some things irl, and I'll try to get back to my regular posting as soon as I can..."

No. I read this constantly and it never fails to annoy me. There are a lot of blogs on the internet, and not all that many are commercial. How many of these writers are being paid to write? Those that are, perhaps, owe something to their readers. 

I do not write for money. I don't write for fame (or whatever the blogging equivalent can be considered as) and I certainly don't write for my readers. I write for myself. If along the way, what I choose to say is interesting or relevant to you, your life, or your work, then that's awesome. I enjoy the interaction - I don't crave it, but it does cast an interesting form of reflection over my writing. 

Perhaps if I was to promise a post of some sort to the regular readers, and then retract the statement, then I would feel as if I owe an explanation. But that is a matter of common courtesy, not as could be implied, a principle that I would feel myself required to respect.  

In short, no apology will be forthcoming if I haven't been posting at a pace on the blog that most people would consider optimal. Your readership is appreciated.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fictional Iron Man/Monster Energy Drink Ad

A project that I figured I might as well add the great repository of information that we call the internet.

Note: I do not support Monster or their products: they're just pop (death in a can) with some extra caffeine and vitamins. Iron Man is pretty cool though. All images are owned by Marvel and Monster.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Big Bang Theory & Ubuntu

At last, one of the two things that have never been on the Big Bang Theory has been acknowledged: Ubuntu.

Sheldon: "Ahh, Ubuntu, my favorite Linux-based operating system." (I believe that was the quote, if it isn't, I'd appreciate the correction.) 

Every computer nerd (and Sheldon certainly is one) uses, or has used at some point a Linux distribution. It's a small point, but it has endeared the show to me even further.

Now, the only thing that I'm waiting for a mention of is Dungeons & Dragons. (Yes, I've seen every single episode, and I'm quite sure that it has been included in none of them.) Really, a show about nerds, and not a single mention?


Fast Food

I made the mistake of venturing into a fast-food restaurant yesterday. I can't describe it as anything other than frightening. 

The usual scents of grease and salt were present, the whirring of the air-conditioning and the clanks and splashes of whatever is being turned into "food" in the back.

But the thing that always frightens me the most is the staff. As you get up to the front of the line, uncomfortably close to a morbidly obese and copiously sweating person, a woman apologizing for a spilled drink, a small child doomed to an early death due to poor diet and worse exercise and at the pushy customers and crying babies... you look into the eyes of the man at the register, and you watch a little more of him die inside. He's a man. Not a boy, it's not a phase, this is his life, what he is and what he does.

And it makes you want to leave. To tell him to quit. To take your money and leave, him standing there. So that everyone is silent, and just sits there, thinking about how short life it, how much of it they've wasted, and how little they have left.

But instead, you just hand him the change, take the greasy, salty, overly sweetened food, thank him, and walk out the door with your head down, out back into the sunshine, so that you can forget what it is that you just did.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Iron Man 2

Being a bit of a comic book nerd, I went to see Iron Man 2

I'm not much of one for movie reviews (it's based far too much on opinion, and I really don't have the interest in trying to communicate such a complex experience to somehow who most likely can't at all relate to what I did experience). So I'll keep it short. 

The movie was good although I preferred the first: the characters then seemed more compelling, and the plot more complex, realistic, and a fair bit funnier. But perhaps that was just my experiencing Robert Downey Jr., aka Tony Stark, aka Iron Man for the first time.

Really though, what struck me, is that the part of the movie that I found the coolest was the interfaces that Mr. Stark employed throughout. The projections(?), while entirely unrealistic, are probably some of the most interesting GUI's that I've ever seen. Yes, they were in the first movie as well, but it's just now that it really struck me how interesting they are. 

It would be a fairly intuitive way of manipulating information, although I fear that if our relationship to computers ever did progress to that point, then people would be largely shut out from the control that we now possess due to our (comparatively) intimate relationship with the coding and processes that they consist of...

But to be able to zoom in to view a series of pictures from different angles, work on them, quite literally, by hand, and then pick them up and hurl them into an interactive garbage can would be quite an experience. 

I have to wonder, is the current trend towards touch screens and intuitive interfaces more than just a fad?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tax Dollars & Police Accountability

<- That is what your tax dollars are being used for. To buy the pepper spray and body armor that that officer required to spray these WTO protesters in Seattle.

Before bothering to read any farther, do you agree with this statement: police forces are established to protect and serve the citizens. If you don't agree with this statement, then it's probably not worth reading any farther, although I welcome you to do so. 

 Now, if we consider that statement correct, then we have to ask ourselves: do you want your tax dollars, and your complacency to enable such gross abuses of power? Were these protesters lighting fires, settings bombs? No. They were merely protesting somewhere that the government had decided they shouldn't be allowed to. I am reasonably sure that if you went around the country asking people, very few would say that these people were a danger to anyone. Stopping robberies and muggings, preventing shootings and perusing killers? Yes. They are a threat to everyone, including themselves. The same thing will occur over and over, unless we care to do something to break the cycle. 

Why are there such blatant abuses of power? 

Lack of accountability. No one knows who that officer was, where his orders came from, or why they were issues. The police system is about as transparent as a cinder block from the vantage point of the ordinary citizen. Deciding what to do about it is a lot more complex: after all, just adding more rules and regulations is likely just going to make it more complex and confusing. For a start, every officer should be clearly emblazoned with a number. I mean, huge, yellow lettering across their chest and back. And as short as can be managed, as well. No 17 digit I.D. tags that no one will remember. And anonymous access to a website where you can enter the number and be provided with a link to contact this person's commanding officer, along with links to resources about citizen rights. A pipe dream? Probably, but it's a least a start.

We can make a difference: I'm sure that most people have seen the video of police storming a suspected drug dealer's house, shooting his dogs and arresting him.... while young children were present. And then finding nothing but a small amount of marijuana. And there have been changes made, no matter how minor they are, including a statement that presence of children may be considered a factor in whether or not an armed assault will be conducted. (Source, anyone?). 

They're our police. When people are as afraid of them as they are of the criminals that they should be protecting us from, the system is broken.

The Failure of the Maker's Bill of Rights

The Maker's Bill of Rights  is certainly an interesting document: it clearly states many of the qualities that I believe are important when purchasing something, especially electronics. 

If you can't open something up, can't take it apart, see how it works, put it back together again and sell it, if you can't alter it as you wish to, or give it away when you're done, then you don't own it, it's not yours.

But something that most people fail to acknowledge is that it's still our choice: it can be something tiny, like choosing a 'Droid over and iPhone, or larger: choosing to use Linux over Windows. But whatever the decision is, there is always a choice, even if the choice is abstaining: not buying anything at all hurts the manufacturer almost as much as you buying their competitor's product.  

An XKCD that I find relevant to this topic as a whole:

Really, what I'm trying to say is that we do have a choice: it's not the manufacturers fault for not providing the products that we want, it's our fault for not demanding them, and refusing to buy anything less. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wireless Internet Security

My wireless security has been compromised.

Now, the worst part isn't that someone is in my network: in fact, I'm pretty impressed by how he* blew through my 20-something character password, with WPA encryption and a hidden SSID. No, the problem is that he's using my bandwidth. Not just a few YouTube videos either: at one point, 12gig in one day.

That is not hacking. He beat me, yes, he broke into my network, smashed my security, and embarrassed me. But he also provided me with a chance to outsmart him, a challenge issued and well received. That is, to me, what hacking is about. Not making viruses, not theft, not damage to another, but the defeat of another in virtual combat: a nerdy battle to the death.

This, however, is not hacking: it is theft. The very nature of a wireless network means that I am always on the defense. To break my security is not necessarily even a negative experience: I guarantee that my defenses will be far stronger, and my security protocols more stringent overall when all is said and done. The bandwidth overages that now plague me have been a significant expense, and have spared this individual from actually paying for his own.

To hack for personal gain to me is not hacking: it is theft. Perhaps I have an overly romanticized view of it, but this is not in the true spirit of hacking.

*It's not sexism, just convenient to stick with one gender. I may not have any statistics that confirm my point to hand, but I assure you that the odds are that my adversary is male.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Freedom of Speech, Internet Uploading, & Telus Mobility.

I have owned two phones:

The LG Dare (An iPhone ripoff.)
(currently) The LG Keybo

Now, imagine a world without the internet. When I purchase something, the only realistic medium in which I have to express my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the product is word of mouth. Therefore, I am limited to at most, providing the information that I possess to a hundred or so people, although the actual number will likely be far lower.

However, in writing this post, I am exposing my experience with the product and the company that provided it, to a nearly unlimited amount of people: chances are that only a few will bother to read it, and it will be relevant to fewer still, but at least it is there for anyone who wishes to seek it out. This is the great value that the internet has: that ability to upload and produce, not just the ability to consume and download, although it might be buried under mountains of pornography, spam and poor spelling.

Now, onto my systematic dismantling of Telus Mobility and their products. The (proprietary, unalterably isolated) OS that the phones run is a disgrace. It`s actually just pathetic. The music player slows to a crawl if more than 100 songs are loaded onto it (even though it supports an 8gb extra memory in the form of a microSD card) and it has little functionality other than texting and phone calls, which is not what any reasonable person would expect from a several hundred dollar smart phone. Neither is of solid construction, with the Dare needing replacement 6 months after the plan was purchased, and the Dare's hinges worn out with only a tiny amount of use.

Telus, in all my dealings with them, has been quite uncooperative: the staff were pleasant enough, but when push came to shove, they were effectively powerless to correct anything.

In short, I'm fairly certain that you don't care, but maybe someone who is thinking about buying a phone plan from Telus will do a little more research and decide if that's what they really want.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Around The Web

The usual assortment of useful, informative and funny links: