Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

Monday, November 04, 2013

Stupid press and their stupid ways (Facebook haters)

From time to time there are articles claiming the end of Facebook.  These articles are all pretty much the same, saying how "kids" are using other social media sites now, such as Vine, Snapchat, Ask.fm, and Instagram.  Really?

Vine is not used instead of Facebook.  Vine is used instead of Youtube.  It's a video app.

Snapchat is only being used for sending sexy videos that cannot be stored.  Again, not something that was ever really Facebook's thing.  Facebook might be losing some use to Snapchat, but I don't think it's much.  Youtube is losing more than Facebook.

Ask.fm is really competition for Reddit and Yahoo! Answers rather than Facebook.  Maybe Reddit is stealing time away from Facebook, but ultimately, even these individuals end up on Facebook for social networking (even as they pretend to hate it).  Reddit doesn't have a strong social interaction and is mostly just strangers posting for strangers.

What about Instagram?  People use Instagram instead of older services like Flickr and Photobucket.  It's a photo app.  There is a stronger social aspect, but photos aren't really a replacement for communicating on Facebook.  It's more like one-way bragging, which ultimately doesn't promote long and engaging interaction.  When people respond to someone else's brags, they are trying to make themselves relevant in the context of the braggartry, and that's what tends to happen on Facebook.  That's something that just isn't possible on Instagram.

You know what kids are using instead of Facebook?  Nothing, ...kinda.  They are using text messaging.  Texting is why Facebook is seeing a small decline in usage in the younger demographics.  Aggressive use of texting is temporary for people, though.  Textings doesn't grow as your network grows.  There's a certain point where texting becomes intrusive.  When that happens, people move their social networking to a more broad service.  When they do, that service still tends to be Facebook.

I'm not a Facebook pumper.  I can live with or without it.  I do know it is the most convenient service right now.  There is just something about it that makes it more usable than Google+.  Anyone that thinks that Facebook will go the way of Myspace and Friendster just isn't paying attention or only seeing what they want to see.  Until something that is actually better comes around, Facebook isn't going to die from a supposed mass migration of its user base.

There is merit to all the services mentioned above.  Some services appeal to certain people more than others.  Facebook's success is that it is a generalist that covers all the bases.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Opinion about epinions.com decline

epinions.com used to be a great resource to get real world, vetted and high quality customer reviews for all sorts of products from books to cars.  Contributing to epinions.com was actually minimally lucrative, as you got compensated for your product reviews.  Fellow members of the website would critique submitted reviews to help others improve the quality and review writing skills.  The higher quality reviews earned a larger share of whatever earnings were made.

I was never really sure just how the compensation worked, but over the years, I made less than $100 total from my nine posted product reviews.  My first review was posted in 2002 about my old Acura TL Type-S, for which I earned the coveted "Very Helpful" rating.  Over a period of one decade, that review has earned me a whopping total $20.

In the past, I've endorsed and recommended the use of epinions.com.  I frequently went there for reviews of products in which I was interested.  Then something starting changing in 2012.  I stopped using epinions.com.  I didn't really know why at the time.  It just happened.  Looking back, I believe it may have been because reviews were getting harder to find.  It was not that there was less of them, but rather the structure of the website had started changing for the worse.

Sometime this summer of 2013, I was writing a review for another product on Amazon.com and figured it was good enough to add to epinions.com.  I thought I might as well make my 3¢ a year. So, I went back to the epinions.com website and searched for the product.  It was a book.

I searched for the book and found a webpage that listed a bunch of sites that sold the book.  There was no product page.  In the past, the product page would come up as the search result.  This is where one would go to add a review.  But now, there was just a listing of other websites.  Sure, older products still had product pages, though you'd have to surf through the myriad of links to other websites in order to find them.  Much to my dismay, epinions.com had become an inferior online mall.  There isn't even a rewards program, like with higher quality online malls such as MyPoints.com.  epinions.com made itself completely irrelevant.

I guess some areas on the website are still maintained, such as electronics, where it appears to be a little easier to find the product pages for newer products.  It's just not enough to justify giving the website a second thought anymore.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Notion of Creation is not a theory, and scientific theories aren't proposed notions

Bible based knowledge does not lead to new scientific knowledge.  People used to think the Bible was useful to learn about nature.  They did try to use it as a guide to make new discoveries.  However, over time, scientists started finding out that the Bible just gets so much wrong.    The Bible literally has almost every major point wrong about the universe, from its description of Earth as a flat world with a tent over head to its description of rabbits as cud chewers. The value of the Bible is it's a general moral guide taken in the context within the times each portion was originally written/re-written. Taking it for more than that is truly grasping as straws.  People discovered the hard way that the Bible was not a good starting point to learn about nature. That's why the practice of referring to the Bible as a source for science was stopped over time.
So, to that point, Creationism based on the Bible isn't a theory. It is a failed notion. A theory isn't just a proposal. It is a proven working model of the Universe with a lot of peer reviewed data, from which accurate predictions can be made. To extend this further, those predictions often create new areas of exploration and further growth of knowledge, directly leading to new technologies, either in the exploration of the theory or as a result of knowledge learned from the theory. Last major invention spurred by Bible belief was the telescope, and use of that technology disproved that belief; the creator being forced to recant his statements about reality and live under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

On the other hand, Darwin didn't create the Theory of Evolution, he proposed the core concepts based on his observations. Evolution was born out of the peer review process with much more independently collected data. Evolution wasn't a theory until there was a massive amount of data and extraneous amount of analysis of that data, from which the natural model was molded.

Why is Creationism not a theory? Because it doesn't have one iota of this. The supporters want a magical shortcut, using circular arguments and cherrypicked research of other people's works in the form of anecdotes and impressive looking fake equations. No actual proven predictions come from Creationsm nor from its child contrivance called Intelligent Design. Creationism is the end of knowledge, not its birth. That is why is it not a theory and it is not science. Now, that said, the challenge is always there for Creationism supporters to objectively collect data and test hypotheses. Even if they don't prove their hypotheses, at least new knowledge would come from that. This process has yet to be undertaken by Creationist (and Intelligent Design believers), or if it has, results have been hidden.

Examples of observations that would grow knowledge along the Creationist track:
  • Find DNA in mammals that cannot be traced back to a common ancestor or introduced by some other natural process.
  • Show completely distinct lifeforms with no ancestry at all. 
  • Find data that offers new evidence to reinterpret apparent evolution in our own species, from malaria resistance to lactose persistence.
  • Additionally, find data that better explains why pre-agricultural humans did not have cavities and modern humans with no cavities is almost unheard of? (Hint, that has been very well explained with a recent study of mouth-dwelling bacteria and their evolution to adapt to our changing diets, along with our own evolution for such too.)
These examples cannot be explained with anecdotes.  Hard evidence has to be presented from scientific studies using the Scientific Method.  Research doesn't count for this.  New evidence has be presented.  That evidence must be collected and peer reviewed.  Until that happens, Creation Notion can never be put on equal footing with any Scientific Theory, especially the Theory of Evolution.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

WP on MJ legalizatoin; and the prohibition

The article Five myths about legalization of marijuana has a lot of interesting points about legalization of marijuana and what is likely to really happen.
When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is not going to turn into a Cheech and Chong movie. It is, however, going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy.
I don't really agree with the tone for the conclusions about the 5th myth in the article regarding the politics of the matter. The Marijuana Prohibition (and prohibition on all drugs for that matter) is neither a liberal or conservative battle.  Many individuals from both camps have reasons to support the Drug Prohibition. And, many individuals from both camps have reasons to end it.

For me, these are reasons to end prohibition:
  • personal liberty
  • disproportionate application of the laws massive federal investment into the Drug War has not decreased drug addiction nor substantially affected overall use
  • expensive drug related battles (literally) that only make our enemies stronger and us weaker by the day
  • allows focus on treatment for those are prone to addiciton rather than turning them into career criminals
  • better use of local funds to help other areas of society and infrastructure
  • tax money from the regulation of drugs, etc.
These issues cross the political spectrum.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Radioactive, radioactive radio edit controversy


There's a bit of a controversy about a popular song right now called Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.  There's a lot of complaints by fans who bought the album about how the song quality on the album is inferior to what's been playing on the radio and in trailers for movies and on commercials for new TV series.  (Seriously, this song is everywhere right now.)  The complaints are pretty consistent by fans, not even haters.

Distortion was noticeable on digital format as well as CD. Very poor quality on car stereo really drives home the point.
Somehow, producer Alex da Kid thought that intentionally introducing that awful, cheap sounding distortion (several tracks, most notably beginning on 'Radioactive'), was somehow "artistic". What a stupid idea.
What's this about distortion?  The bass in the song Radioactive has been distorted to sound like subwoofers maxed out.  It's a rough and gravelly sound that doesn't sound good on good stereo systems (such as the stereo systems in the average car these days).  I got the CD, and I agree with the criticism.  It's OK, but not good.

Theres something called the radio edit version of the song, which I like, but it also seems like it's distorted too much too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Expose of hate

Wow, it's the 21st Century, and we still have people using the same old tired arguments to justify beliefs that are only marginally covered in some ancient "holy" text.  These are the same arguments used by the Nazis to justify hatred of the Jews and other peoples in the early 20th Century, arguments used by Slave Owners to justify slavery in the 19th Century, and arguments used by racist to justify keeping the races separate during the mid-20th Century.  How are they using these same bigoted arguments now?  ...to attack homosexuals and gay marriage.  I ran into a person spewing this nonsense on a social website the other day.  Here's a brief rundown of the arguments with my opinions as replies (each one of these could be their own meme):

  • Societies that have embraced homosexuality have declined - (Comment: Really? Over-extended borders, reduced/squandered resources, foreign invasions, and heavy debt are all caused by homosexuality?)
  • Statistics show us that it's unhealthy to be homosexual - (Comment: What's really the point of this and how is this justification to deny equal protections under the law? It's risky crossing the street.  Should we stop equal access to education for those kids that happen to need to cross a street to get to school?)
  • God created and defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman - (Comment: Ah, here comes the bible-thumping!  Numerous scriptures were quoted at this point.  But, how many bible characters had multiple wives? A lot!  The bible even sets out rules on how to take captured women from military conquests home as wives.)
  • Homosexuals have a higher risk of mental illness - (Comment: Given the fact that homosexuality was classified as a mental illness up until the last part of the 20th Century, I would question any statistics linking mental illness to homosexuality.  But on that point, as more scientific facts are discovered, it is becoming increasing understood that most mental illnesses have a genetic factor, which means that being prone to mental illness is also something with which certain individuals are born.)
  • STDs, including HIV, higher among homosexuals - (Comment: Teen pregnancy is infinity higher among heterosexuals.  Coal miners have much higher risks of lung related diseases.  Umm, there's about a million other pointless and dubious statistics that can be pulled out of thin air.  All of this is completely unrelated to the fact that we all deserve equal treatment under the law. )
  • Societies that had a spread of Christianity had a decline in homosexuality - (Comment: No, homosexuals where just forced into hiding due to the same kind a bigotry being promoted in our time.  This is a kin to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran.  Complete nonsense.)
  • The gay marriage discussion is about changing the religious definition of marriage - (Comment: Again, no.  This statement an attempt to re-frame the discussion to pretend that promoting gay marriage rights is an attack on one's own faith, as if gay marriage is somehow violating the rights of unassociated individuals.  This is disingenuous at best.  The gay marriage rights discussion is about equal protections under the law without regard for what beliefs one group of people have about another group of people.)
  • Marriage isn't a human right, but rather an honored institution - (Comment: Talk about grasping for straws!  This is a scorched-earth attempt to argue that marriage is just some sort of contract. Well, even with contracts, we are all entitled equal protection under the law.  In other words, we are all allowed to enter contracts freely.  So, not only does that argument contradict the earlier argument about God defining marriage, it actually makes the opposite point it is trying to make.  The point is, we must have equal protection under the law, regardless the circumstances!)
  • Gay couples wish to force their beliefs on corporations and the government to take advantage of benefit structures geared for traditional families. (Comment 1:  Yeah, again, equal protections under the law is the point.  Do we give corporations the right to deny benefits to other classes of families based on religious beliefs?  No, because that is supposedly illegal.  Comment 2: This statement is a hint about the right of the corporation to have a religious stand.  However, a corporation is an imaginary construct of the law.  The presuppositional argument is that imaginary things (like corporations) have rights that trump flesh and blood people.  Since this person seems to believe that  corporations (which are imaginary) have more rights than actual humans, then let's give other imaginary things rights too, like giving the Easter Bunny the right to vote!)
  • Married couples pay more taxes.  Gay marriage would benefit the government.  (Comment:  First, "oh the horror of it all!  Oh no, the government will benefit from treating people equally!"  Second, married couples pay less, the same or more tax based on their family situation.  Number of kids, owning a home as a marriage couple, and other factors actually significantly reduce tax liability for families.)
  • The point continues: What if our world economy crashes?  Labor unions may fall into foreclosure; employers may have to declare bankruptcy and then won't be able to afford the benefit structures that support gay marriage afterwards.  (Comment: Really?  Argument against equal protections for gays involves what-iffing about world wide catastrophes?  Wow!  First, the inclusion of labor unions (the reason we have a middle class in American) as "foreclosing" is down right silly, and a very backwards way of expressing one's wishful thinking.  I'm not sure how a union would fall into foreclosure, since unions are a free assembly of individuals for the purpose of collective bargaining.  The bureaucratic portion of a labor union may go bankrupt, but that doesn't mean the union would cease to exist. A free assembly of individuals certainly cannot be foreclosed upon, as they are actual living and breathing people, not property.  Second, collective bargaining is used by employers to provide benefits to their employees.  The more employees that are covered, the more economical the benefits.  Having gay couples included actually helps reduce costs, not increase them.  Third, the idea that gay marriage will worsen a world wide catastrophe is completely ludicrous.  Bankers and Wall Street will have far more to do with that than any other minority in our population.)
Much like the average fundamentalist propaganda brochures, the individual who made these points concluded their statements with a bunch of rhetorical questions that they believe they answered in their diatribe.  I reserved my sharpest criticism for my own blog here, but I didn't let these bigoted claims go unchallenged on that social forum, nor was I the only one.  Another Christian and others also chimed in and called out this individual for those statements. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tipping point

Wow, there sure has been a lot of back and forth online recently about customary tipping (gratuities) in America for the service provided by waitstaff at restaurants.  A lot of it is playing out on Reddit.  There was this pastor who protested an 18% automatic tip on a split bill for a large party, citing God has her reason for protest.  That event lead to so much buzz that there's no point trying to cover any more it. 

Another Reddit posting appeared more recently of another posted receipt.  This receipt actually shows a reduction of the automatic tip from the final bill.  An interesting backlash has come out of this second posting.  Several problems arise.  First, the assumption is the automatic tips are some how compulsory.  Second, 20% automatic tip is just nuts.  I've seen 18%, and I still have to wonder why so high.  Third, how can a tip ever be considered compulsory!

I suggest reading the comments of the Reddit links.  There are a lot of good statements (some of them even sourced).  Legally speaking, tips are not compulsory.  By definition (IRS and at the state level), they must be voluntarily offered by the customer in order to qualify as a tip.  Sure, a restaurant can charge a service fee, but a service fee is not a tip, and not taxed the same. 

Overtipping is creating a monster

There's a general issue at the heart of all this: overtipping.  There has been way too much overtipping since the late 1990's.  People feel good about themselves when they overtip.  This is pure arrogance and selfaffirmation.  I know, I used to be one of those overtippers.  Why did I stop overtipping?  Sure, it helps the one individual, but it hurts the overall system.  The more overtipping occurs, the more waitstaff come to expect the higher tip rate, regardless to the level of service. Bad servers are rewarded for being bad.  The value of good servers is diminished over time.  Plus, waitstaff often don't connect the dots well enough to understand why they are getting a good tip and why they are not.  I was taught this lesson a very long time ago by a friend of mine who was a former waitress.  It took me a very long time to accept it. 

Another reason I stopped overtipping is because 15% is now considered a standard tip.  Really?  I remember when 10% was considered a great tip!  And now, some in the restaurant industry are claiming a minimum tip is 25%!?  Really?!   Waitstaff aren't the only group of people that aren't making a lot of money.  Overtipping is making it harder for average Americans to go out and enjoy dinner.   That actually hurts our overall economy.  Less people will dine out, consume less when they do dine out, or dine out a places without a waitstaff.  This means less overall money finding its way into the full service restaurant industry. 

No more overtipping

Can I afford to overtip?  Yes.  But I've stopped doing it after realizing the harm it is causing to the overall system.  Since 15% is now the normal and legally recognized tip, I consider that to be the minimum for normal/good service.  I will often push the tip up for great service.  However, that rarely exceeds 18%, and is usually 16-17%. 

And, just as important.  Do not tip on the whole bill.  Tipping is on the subtotal.  Sales tax is what we pay to the local government.  You really want to tax your sales tax?  People who pay their tip on the sales tax portion of the bill may think they are being good people, but this is just another form of overtipping.

How to handle bad service

If service was so-so, I normally just ignore it and move on.  What I have learned, that if service is particularly bad, do not take it out of the tip (or at least, don't wait to take it out of the tip).  Depending on the degree of the problem, talk to the restaurant staff about the issues you are experiencing.  For extremely minor issues, I will say, just get over it.  For simple matters that need to be addressed, talk to the waitstaff.  They should be able to take care of the matter.  I've found that waitstaff will often forward bigger issues to the Manager without you asking.  If the waitstaff isn't helpful or the problems are bigger, then ask for the Manager.  Again, depending on the degree of the service problem, you may wish to wait until after the meal.  Some waitstaffers will resent you for complaining.  If it is a problem that must be addressed before the end of the meal, then if at all possible, wait until the food arrives.

Region

Having travelled much of America now, I've found that some areas are just better than others when it comes to the quality of service.  Set your expectations accordingly.  Of course, it is still not OK to receive rude service.  However, I've found that coastal regions of California tend to have better service on the average than other areas, such as Massachusetts.  Many times, trying to get your waitstaffer's attention can be a bit of a chore at many places in Massachusetts.  Training seems to be biggest cause for issues in Massachusetts, since normally the waitstaffers are willing to serve, they just aren't always as aware on how to be attentive.

Don't punish waitstaff for kitchen and systematic problems


Now, the flipside of this is that there are many areas of the restaurant that are not under the control of the waitstaff. Judge a tip based on the service itself. For example, if a steak comes cooked incorrectly, it's a 50% chance that the waitstaffer got the order wrong. However, it is 50% chance that the kitchen got it wrong too. Give the waitstaffer the benefit of the doubt.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who are we calling producers and who are those who refuse to produce?

One of the sad sign of our times is that we demonize those who produce, subsidize those who refuse to produce, and canonize those who complain. --Thomas Sowell
This is a particularly disgusting statement.  First, those who produce and those who do not is a matter of perspective.  What do you tell the father of 3 who has relied on a job for most of his life, who then lost his job because the company who he worked for was mismanaged by executives and had to shut down?  What do you tell that same father when the same guys that ran his company into the ground got huge bonuses "so they wouldn't leave" before operations were completely shut down?  If the father had stock in that company, he lost on two fronts because of those executives.

Given Sowell's statement above, I would ask, who is he calling the producer?  Who is he calling "those who refuse to produce"?  Would it be the executives that drove their company into the ground, not only losing value in the company, but also within the greater economy?  If anything, they are anti-producers.  This makes them worse than the supposed people who "refuse to produce", whoever they are.  The producer is the father who worked his entire life at his company, making the goods and services that found their way into homes all across America.

Fed has spent trillions to keep a dying financial industry on life support, who in turn gave huge bonuses to the very people the caused the last melt down of our economy.  What did those people do with the rest of the taxpayer's money?  Most of it is locked away, being kept out of the economy (likely for good).

Are we really all that worried about giving a few pennies (comparatively) to people who are likely already not putting enough food on the table because they believed in this very system that eventually let them down?  It's this kind of nonsense that makes communism start to look good to the starving masses.  We would not need to raise taxes had it not been for the massive problems that we, the voters, allowed in Wall Street by putting congresspersons in office that are more worried about the next big donor than they are about the solvency of our system.

How badly do we want to lower taxes?  Well, let's consider something.  Out of the last three crashes of our economy, two were caused by real estate financials games that started happening as a direct result of deregulation of particular financial institutions.  The games these institutions were playing eventually stopped working, but the corporations still needed to pretend they were making money (when, in fact, they were losing massive amounts of money).  So, they created paperwork fantasies to keep showing profits on Wall Street in order to convince everyone that nothing was going on until it was too late.  The third economic crash was caused by too much speculation on Wall Street. The common thread here is Wall Street and all the money that the taxpayer is continuously asked to pay to keep these guys rich when really they should be in jail.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I've only been gone 18 months! #49ers Stadium

OK, so I've only been gone like 18 months!  The house that we owned is in the Rivermark area, practically in the shadow of the future home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, CA.  When we sold the home, there was nothing more than a proud sign and a parking lot at the site of the planned stadium.



Eighteen months later?

Future home of the 49ers (wide)

Untitled

49ers new home under construction II

49ers new home under construction I 
I don't think I've ever seen this much progress on a project in California in such a short time! Supposedly, the stadium is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2014 season, followed by opportunities for Super Bowls and other events.

Parking is a big weakness for this stadium.  There is almost no parking on the stadium property.  But let's not bother with details right now.

The jury is still out as to whether this will improve home values near the stadium.  Some say it will bolster values, and other say it will drag them down.  If this project is handled like AT&T Ballpark by the San Francisco Giants, values will soar due to ongoing redevelopment efforts nearby.  If the project is handled like the Oakland Colosseum, eh, watchout!  I already know the 49ers wanted to avoid the AT&T Ballpark model, so a bit of concern is appropriate.  It all depends on how Santa Clara City itself handles things.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freedom of Speech not an excuse to incite because we are offended

Protection of the speech that we find offensive is critical to protecting our right to speak. If we ban our opponent's right to speak because we find their words are offensive, then we open the door to someone banning our rights (not just the right to speak, but perhaps even the right to worship) for the same reasons.  Second, each of us as a fellow human control our own selves, and it is our responsible to not harm others. Words by themselves are irrelevent to our actual actions unless we are part of a conspiracy to act together to harm others (such as in the case of gangs that are ordered by their leaders to commit crimes). The only people who should be held accountable for the actions of killing another are those who did it and those who told them to do it. Being offended by the words of our opponents is no excuse for harming others.