Friday, March 25, 2005

This seems like something that customers should be made directly aware of. It does seem that Vonage made good faith efforts to notify customers, so I'm not sure a lawsuit is warranted.

But, they're being sued for $20,000 per potential violation. With 500,000 customers, that comes to $10 billion. That'd probably put a crimp in Vonage's continued existance.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

We just got back from seeing "Robots."
I would give it two-and-a-half out of four stars. It had its moments, but I think I hinder some of these animated films a little by comparing them to the "Toy Story" movies. Those were truly ground-breaking and they did a terrific job of mixing in adult humor. It's not that "Robots" didn't, it just wasn't as seamless. Fender, the robot voiced by Robin Williams, definitely stole the show.

The best aspect of the film was the voice talent. It seems like each time an animated film is released, more and more big Hollywood talent wants to be involved. Characters' voices ranged from those of Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor, to Terry Bradshaw and Paula Abdul, with James Earl Jones and Mel Brooks, as well.

Another highlight of the trek to the cinemaplex was the trailer for "Revenge of the Sith." I've watched it on my computer on several occasions, but when it's on the big screen. . .there's just something magical. I got goosebumps. I really do hope that it doesn't end up being "Titanic in space." It would be a shame for those of us who have grown up with Darth Vader at the top of our villain list to have it ruined by making him into a pitiful, whining toady. Personally, I've always rooted for the Empire, so this episode should be the ultimate in joy and rapture for me. The bad guys finally win a big one. Sure, they sort of won in "The Empire Strikes Back," but this one promises wholesale slaughter of "Rebel scum."
By the way, Kill-Bot,
I'm glad you're able to post again. David was thinking of changing your title to "Defunct Placeholder."
I don't think I've ever posted
on the Terri Schiavo case, so I'll give my reaction. I'm troubled. I believe in the right to die -- not as the Right to Die movement uses it, but in the sense that, if you have the right to life, you, by extension, have right to terminate your life if you so desire.

This is very different from physician-assisted suicide. I have a great measure of uneasiness about that. My fear is the one being realized in the Netherlands: Doctors euthanizing infants without consent of the parents; the critically ill being euthanized without reference to their desire or wishes, or the desires of their legal guardians. An independent review board makes those determinations.

The Schiavo case, though, is perplexing and horrid at the same time. Horrid because all signs seem to indicate that Schiavo has some form of cognition, yet she's been declared to be in a permanent vegetative state, even though no MRI or PET scan has been performed. Perplexing because of the procedural games that are being played. The Florida judge in this case, from what I understand, appointed himself as Terri's guardian ad litem. He's supposed to be her advocate and adjudicate on her case at the same time? Even if that's legal (which I would think it wouldn't be), it's at the very least grossly improper. Why that, in and of itself, isn't grounds for appeal is beyond me.

For the record, if Terri Schiavo is, indeed, in a persistent vegetative state, and she did, indeed, declare that she didn't want to be kept alive artificially, including, in this case, just the use of feeding tubes, than I think her wishes should be followed and she should be allowed to die.

However, the above two conditions are incredibly murky. As I said before, no MRI or PET scan has been performed. The doctors who have worked with Terri the longest all state that she is not in PVS. She reacts to stimuli, she seems to recognize people, she laughs, she cries, etc. The Corner even posted an observation by a physician that Terri seems to be able to recognize that certain tests are going to be performed and anticipate the pain. That's vegetative? She may have incredible brain damage, but that's not the same as being a vegetable.

Also, with regards to Terri's declaration that she didn't want to be kept alive, I find that it's just too suspect. That's not to say she didn't say what her husband claims, but we have to look then at the character of her husband to determine if he really has her interests at heart. Accounts I've read indicate that he was very much into keeping his wife alive, to keeping her going, etc. He and Terri's family seemed to get along great. Then the malpractice lawsuit was settled, and things changed. Suddenly, the family didn't get along with Michael. Nurses report that he would become happier the worse his wife got, and make comments like, "Why won't that bitch die?" He was also heard commenting about the money he'd get when she dies. That's whose empowered to make decisions on her behalf?
Democracy is on the march
and President Bush's push for liberty throughout the world is starting to gain some significant momentum. According to FOXNews, pro-democracy forces have taken control of the capital city of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. This move, along with the actions taken by the freedom-loving people of Lebanon, shows a definite swing in the "changing hearts and minds" front of GWOT.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Here's a theory about "Titanic in space."
I've been rambling about the internet (not invented by Al Gore) this evening, and I stopped by one of my usual spots to watch some short films. This one deals in a possible reason behind the downfall of the "Star Wars" saga. Enjoy!
Am I just a cruel, heartless bastard?
Or, is everyone else sick and tired of hearing about Terri Schiavo? FOXNews is reporting that the case is causing a "blog storm" of debate.

I do grant that the thought of having a federal court overrule the legislation of a state government is always something that must be scrutinized to the utmost, but the courts have ruled. The Florida Senate has rejected the bill to protect her. The story is over. Let the woman die in peace.

Now, I say the story is over. The Supreme Court did the right thing before by not hearing the case. I understand the parents are planning to approach them with it again, and I sincerely hope the Court sticks to its guns and refuses the case. We shall see.

I think the real reason this is such a hot-button case is the vague resemblance it shows to abortion. If you think about it, it really is a right to life versus choice issue. I won't get into the gory details, but it's something for you folks out there in Bloggerland to think about.
You can't keep a good man down.
However, you can keep him so busy with work and frustrated by tech support that he can't post for months at a time. Greetings to the lot of you. It's great to be back.

Take the quiz: "Which Syndicated Radio Talkshow Host Are You?"

Glenn Beck
You are Glenn Beck. Your ethics and morals are important to you, but you aren't a dry goody-goody type either.

I can live with Glenn Beck. Well, not literally, but I did listen to him when I lived in the socio-economic cesspool that is Missouri (Sorry, David) and I thought he was quite good.

"I'll be dead in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missouri!"
My father took the radio personality test.
He's Art Bell. I don't know what to make of that.
First Cleveland, now this.
I think I need to be worried:

Take the quiz: "Which Syndicated Radio Talkshow Host Are You?"

Howard Stern
You are Howard Stern. Even though you aren't the biggest or the best on the airwaves, you always get the most attention and you always seem to have the most fun and stir up the most controversy.

Doh! At least I can think for myself:

Take the quiz: "Are you an independent thinker?"

A Free Thinking Rebel
Congratulations. You are a free thinker and a rebel. You blaze the hardest trails. Not only do you dare to think your own thoughts in the face of pressure, but you will stand up for them and fight the crowd.

Though there wasn't an answer for the question about the neighbor arrested for drugs that truly fit my stance, which would be along the lines of, "Neighbor? What neighbor?".
I just took the city quiz
that David links to below. I was New York. I'm not posting the graphic because I didn't understand why I was New York.

I did, however, see a link to "Which Syndicated Radio Talkshow Host Are You?" I think the results surprise no one.

Take the quiz: "Which Syndicated Radio Talkshow Host Are You?"

Rush Limbaugh
You are Rush Limbaugh, arguably the most influencial of all radio talkshow hosts, and definitely the richest!
Spare Change Guy
has been a fixture in Harvard Square for as long as I can remember. He was there when I was a student, and I think he was there when David was a student. He sells Spare Change Magazine, and he's got boundless energy and a great voice. "Big guy. Big guy. Come on, big guy." "Pretty lady? Come on, pretty lady."

He isn't the only fixture in the Square. There was a woman who used to sit next to the J. August & Co. shop. Held a sign that said something about being clean, sober, homeless, and hungry. "Spare any change today, sir? Thank you." Everyday for probably 10 hours per day, she sat on a milk crate in the same stoop in Harvard Square. Again, I think she was there when David was there, too.

(For context, I'm class of 1999, David is class of 1994.)

I vacationed in Cambridge in 2001 with the Kill-Bot, and Spare Change Guy and this lady were still there. I came to Harvard in the fall of 1995, and the article I linked to says Spare Change Guy is still going strong, and will probably be there for a little while longer. That's 10 years, plus however long they were there before that.

It made me wonder, when I saw that these people were still there, two things. 1) Once you're homeless, are you stuck there? The stigma, the lack of address, etc. All of these things, are they so permanent, that once you get there, only a miracle or sheer luck will get you out? 2) Do they prefer this lifestyle? What, you say, who would want to be homeless? Prefer may be too strong a word, maybe "choose." Rumors existed about the lady on the milk crate that she wasn't homeless at all, that she rented a small apartment, had a child, and was self-sufficient in the sense that her panhandling was lucrative enough that it paid her expenses. And there's no tax on panhandling. It's not like she has to fill out a 1040 every year. The rumors, if true, would seem to indicate that she's chosen her lifestyle. And has Spare Change Guy become so wrapped up in Spare Change that he's stopped trying to stop being homeless?

And before I get lots of angry comments (lot's of comments? Yeah, right), I want to say that, yes, I know there are many homeless who have serious mental disorders and diseases that make it almost impossible for them to leave normal lifestyles. Homelessness for them, regretably, may be the only life they'll ever have. But what of those who aren't mentally disabled? What of those who are perfectly fine, physically and mentally? Life threw them a tremendous curve. They, like so many of us, lived paycheck to paycheck, and they found themselves on the street because of a disruption of income. At what point is protracted homelessness a problem caused by society, and at what point is it a self-fulfilling condition imposed by the homeless themselves?

I'm not trying to blame the victim. I'm sincerely trying to grapple with this issue. And maybe my sample is incredibly skewed. I'm looking at two particular incidences of homelessness and making sweeping generalizations -- not exactly the greatest basis for my thoughts, but those two personalities and a few other, more stereotypical "bums" that lived around Harvard Square, are the only experience with the homeless that I really have.

They seemed sharp. They seemed to have it together mentally. Boston and Cambridge have some of the best homeless services in the country, from what I understand. And yet these people that I saw almost every day were on the streets for more than a decade.


Monday, March 21, 2005

When I think of the final installment of Star Wars,
"tearjerker" isn't the word I want to think of. Does this quote fill anyone with confidence that "Revenge of the Sith" is going to be good?
"It's not like the old 'Star Wars,'" Lucas told theater owners at the ShoWest convention. "This one’s a little bit more emotional. We like to describe it as 'Titanic' in space. It's a tearjerker."
Titanic in space? Sounds craptacular.
Yeah, I know I shouldn't be blogging
but I had something to say about this from Social Security Choice, who are quoting Jonathan Chait:
As conservatives well understand, once a group of voters has been given a property right by Washington, they will never allow it to be taken away. The individual rights will be a ratchet, one that can be expanded but never contracted.
That would be entirely backwards. Since when does the Washington grant rights? The public has been giving away their property rights (or having them taken away) since the start. That ratchet is turning the wrong direction.

Anyway, to sum up:
Supporters of private accounts should take heart: The real reason why liberals are opposing accounts is because they?re scared of what it could mean for them.
Darn tootin'.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

While I was not in Lindsborg this afternoon,
I have well placed sources who were. They tell me the Phelps affair was rather uninteresting. Typical signs and whatnot, but their presence on Bethany College's campus was well handled by the college. It seems the WBC-crowd was relegated to a position on the fringe of the campus, and they were not able to line the sidewalks in front of Presser Hall.

They arrived at 2:30, yelled a bit, then 3:00 came and they toodled off. Nothing much else to report.
I wanted to give a little more
context to my post from yesterday. I'm not at work right now, so I don't have to worry about the Phelps URL showing up on my web traffic logs.

Here's a link (WARNING: Link goes to vulgar URL; it's probably best that you don't go there while at work) to the press release issued by the WBC regarding their protest today and next Sunday (Easter Sunday) in Lindsborg.

Additional info from the flier:
Westboro Baptist Church called upon Little Sweden in Kansas to rise up and use their influence with the homeland Swedes to repeal Sweden's demonic law that jails Gospel preachers and to release Pastor Ake Green who was prosecuted under that law. WBC also called upon ELCA to use their influence over their Lutheran kin in Sweden to help repeal their damnable law and release Pastor Green. All to no effect. Little Sweden and ELCA agree with Sweden's apostacy and homo-tyranny.
A minor mistatement of fact here. Though he's right that I don't believe that Lindsborg or the ELCA called for Ake Green's release, he was released. An appeals court overturned his conviction.