RMS at RIT

So last week Richard Stallman came to RIT to speak.  I went, and got some pics:

(Edit: Click the thumbnails for full, non-horrendously cropped versions of the pics.)

It was an interesting experience, I even got to shake his hand.

He spent a bit of time railing on Microsoft and Apple, and on Amazon too a little.  For those not familiar, RMS is quite the campaigner for freedom – check out his Wikipedia page for more of his accomplishments.  If he’s coming by your town I would say it’s worth going to hear his talk, very eye-opening.  I’m not quite ready to rip all the proprietary software off of my computers (though I do run Ubuntu for the most part, and most of what I do can be done of free software), but the points he has are very good.  Maybe someday all software will be free software.

A Pacifist in the War on Christmas

Christmas is not far away, and I’m excited.  The family being together, good food, gifts, and the prospect of going home for two weeks are all nice things I’m looking forward to.  Hopefully we’ll get some snow, and our Christmas lights will look nice.

And then of course someone, usually somewhere on a cable news network brings up the age old dilemma of the War on Christmas.  You hear about things like people being outraged about the manger scene in a government building, or about how stores tell their employees to say ‘Happy Holidays’.  And of course there are the extrememe views that this country is a ‘Christion nation’ or about how the government should stay out of this sort of thing completely.  (Well, you hear more about the former view it seems to me.)

To me, this whole issue is another thing that satisfies people’s collective need to be pissed off at something.  I’m not extremely religious, but I do celebrate Christmas, and I do say ‘Merry Christmas’ to friends and family.  It does not bother me to hear ‘Happy Holidays’, and in fact I may even have said it a few times to people just in passing.  I’m not sure I like the idea of government (tax) money going to something like a manger scene in a public building, which is obviously linked to Christianity, at least more so than a Christmas tree necessarily is, but unless it’s absolutely huge I generally don’t care.

It doesn’t really matter what religion you are, or if you even fallow one.  There are so many things in this world that take your mind off of your family and other loved ones.  Now, sometimes in small doses that is a good thing.  But every so often we get opportunities, like Christmas time, to cast that aside and be happy.  Decorations and gifts are nice too, and I’m not saying we should give it all up.  I just think we let controversy take too much control over ourselves sometimes.  After all, having someone say ‘Happy Holidays’ to you won’t kill Christmas, unless you make it.

It’s Over

Simply put, it’s over.  Tension has subsided.  America has picked anothe president.  Now we don’t have to listen to campaign adds and the like.

I hope things will change.  Maybe the will, maybe not; out of all the factors that can screw our country over I doubt that the president is the biggest one we have to worry about at the moment.  I like Obama, and think he might just make a difference.  Let’s see what happens.

On another note, it’s been pretty warm around here.  It’s actually about 70 degrees, and I’m wearing shorts.  Two years ago around this time we were getting over a blizzard.  Back in 2000 I can remember a snow storm of epic proportions.

Halloween Weekend and Election Day

I went home this weekend again.  Here are some pictures:

So yeah, expect a schematic for that flicker circuit whenever I feel like it.  I actually came home for Halloween, and so didn’t need it, but it’s still kind of neat anyway.

Well, on another note, remember to vote tomorrow.  We don’t get many opportunities to take a slice of democracy in this country, but it is our country, and we deserve a say.

Politics

Well, just thought I’d do a little rant.  Gotta love election year, plenty of things to argue about, especially online.

Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that politicians exists to give people something to bitch about.  I see it all the time, on Slashdot, Fark, whereever.  People argue about someting, and then they pick a side, they join a horde for some particular candidate or philosophy.  Then something comes along, like the thing with Obama voting for the FISA bill, and all of a sudden you have people changing their loyalties and arguing endlessly again.  Maybe you get someone talking aobut how our rights are being eroded and that no candidate is protecting them or, my favorite, how maybe we should overthrow the federal government.

The funny thing is, there are valid issues in there.  For me, the FISA thing is troubling, and I am concerned about my rights as an American citizen.  However, it just seems like there’s so much crap that goes back and fourth between the two extreme sides of each issue.

We have to worry, we have to be conscious of who we put in office and what he or she is going to do.  We have to be worried about how it will affect us, the economy, the environment, health, etc.  But I think people have the tendency to take all the pent up rage from their everyday lives and concentrate it into a good-old political quibble online (or in real life).  I know I have.  Okay, to be fare maybe the term “rage” is a littel too extreme, but you get the idea.

We deal with a lot of shit with politics.  It comes from all over the political spectrum, all over the country.  I personally believe that things tend to work themselves out.  While some things may get bad, the people aren’t stupid enough to let it get too far.  Yes, this is optimistic, and I don’t mean to sound apathetic.  But quite simply, I don’t think we’ll be needing to call everyone to arms for a while.

Scientology Protests, New Job, and the Weather

Well, it’s warmer today, in the mid 40’s. Pretty nice. The snow is still here, but it’s metlting, as you can tell by the dripping roofs and occasional streams running into storm drains.  Just a few more weeks and it’ll be pretty nice out.

On another note, I am taking a break from school and working.  No, I haven’t dropped out; my school requires that I do a certain amount of work in my field of study.  The company I am at is in Rochester, and it’s pretty nice.  It’s a good job for me, and it’s not too far from where I’m living.  I’ll be working through the summer, so this year should be a bit of a different experience for me.

Now, for a final note.  Today is L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday.  For those unaware, he was a science fiction writer as well as the father of the Scientology religion.  Said religion is not in the greatest favor of the Internet community and has as a result sparked some turmoil.  The religion (or cult, as some would say) has had its Websites attacked, phone lines jammed, and now its offices protested.

This happened a while back, with the Internet group “Anonymous” announcing plans to blast Scientology off of the Internet.  The issues had to do with Scientoloy rasing legal action against leaked proprietary videos posted on sites like YouTube.  It was further feuled by reports of actions taken by the religion that led to people dieing.  (Search for this on Google; it has been explained many times already.)

This whole thing has interested me to an extent.  Overall, I like to think of myself as more of an outside observer.  I am for religious freedom; practice whatever you want so that long as you respect others (and the world) and don’t force your beliefs on anyone else.  (That’s a simplification of what I think, but it’s the gist.)  So, as far as I’m concerened, if someone thinks that Scientology may have something that can help them out in life, all the power too them.  I can also respect an organization wanting to keep their intellectual property safe.  However, I also wonder as to whether or not Scientology has crossed the line and caused harm; obviously there are reports, and obviously a religion will have the crazy minority which gives the entire group a bad name.  But are the protests justififed?

Maybe, but I’m not getting involved.  I can commend Anonymous for making a stand, and brining attention to the issue.  But at the same time, it is something I am not sure I want to involve myself in too much.  Not really because I am afraid, but because it seems like a waste of time.   Sometimes you just need to step away.

Super Teusday

Well, today is Super Teusday, and I’m not voting.  Not because I don’t care, but because this is New York State and I’m unaffiliated.  I plan to vote in the general election of course, but for now I stay clear.

There are plenty of reasons why I don’t choose a party like this.  Mainly, I have issues with both parties.  Instead I’d rather just wait and see who gets chosen, and if they both seem to suck I’ll consider a thrid party.

OK, I do hope Obama gets in.  He seems like he would be capable, and a good overall choice.  But I’m still not devoted enough to this to actually go and register as a Democrat.  Ron Paul seems to be all the rage these days, and indeed I do like some of his policies, but again I had no plans of registering as a Republican to vote for him either (there are a few things about him that bother me, but that’s for a different day).

Well, if you are affiliated with a party, happy voting.  I will be eager to use my little slice of democracy come November, but the cynic in me still thinks that no matter who gets in little will change.  Hopefully it will be wrong.

Moving

I helped my brother move today.  He’s not going very far, and he doesn’t have a lot of stuff to move.  But he did have a couch which it turned out wouldn’t fit in his new place.  I mean, it wouldn’t go through the door.  We’re not sure what to do with it (if it goes up for sale anywhere online I’ll link to it).

He’s got a lot of stuff in boxes too.  I’m not sure if I’ll have to go back tonight.  But it shouldn’t be too bad.  His new place is pretty nice, so it should be worthwhile for him.  The parking’s not great, but otherwise it’s pretty nice.

On another note, Iowa has the caucuses tomorrow.  I know this is far from any sort of determination as to who will run, but I figure I can keep my fingers crossed for Obama.  And I suppose Ron Paul for the Republicans, but I’m not sure he has a chance.  Oh well, we shall see as the political circus heats up.

Efficient Light

Well, it seems the US Congress has decided to make a push for more efficient lighting technologies. For a detailed account, go here, but basically the gist is that by 2020, all lights must be 70% efficient. (There are earlier goals, so read the article.) A normal incandescent light is about 10% efficient, meaning that the other 90% of the energy used basically turns to heat. In contrast compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) already meet the 70% efficiency requirement. Right now compact fluorescents are about two and a half dollars each, compared with fifty cents for an incandescent. Not to mention that the former will also have a life cycle several times as long.

It should seem obvious which would be a good choice. Sure, there are some thins to keep in mind, like light quality. But even this has come a long way. Go to your local Home Depot or similar store and take a look at the selection of compact fluorescents available (they usually have a bunch on display). You can usually find one that comes pretty close to the light a normal incandescent would give off, or whatever suits your tastes.

Of course, there is the issue of mercury, which these lights do contain.  So, you will have to be sure to dispose of them properly.  But what about the environment?  Well, it turns out that because of the coal we burn for power in a lot of places, you end up dumping less mercury into the environment than with an incandescent (go here for more information).

Hopefully I have convinced you to switch.  Hopefully people will not need any sort of legal action to compel them to switch, also.  When legislation like this comes about, there are always people complaining about the government getting too powerful.  Well, I have a few thoughts on this.

First, I am not really sure I have enough faith in the market to say that we should let it solve our environmental issues such as this.  While I think that given time quality CFLs could be made dirt cheap, I’m not sure I’d want to wait.  I think that some action should be taken.

Next, I’m not really too concerned over something like this.  If the government wants to start forcing the quartering of soldiers, then I would say it might be time to start a revolution.  But requiring more efficient lighting?  Give me a break.  Hell, the legislation doesn’t even specify CFLs, so if someone somehow finds a way to improve incandescent lights to be that efficient then great.  I think there is a trend heading in this direction anyway (though as I mentioned I don’t think it will happen fast enough on its own).

OK, I guess I will admit that part of me finds this a little weird, and this brings me to my final thought: perhaps they could have handled this better.  Maybe a tax break of some sort?  They could remove sales tax on CFLs, or at least give people a break for having a certain number of them.  Who knows.

Well, at any rate this will hopefully save people some money and bring a little less harm to the environment.  On another note, LED Christmas lights will probably be cheap directly following Christmas, so be sure to pick some up for next year (or for this year, or any time you might want Christmas lights).

So, be efficient, and good night!