Saturday, March 29, 2008

comedy etiquette

last wednesday ross and i traveled to san antonio for the chris rock comedy tour that i had arranged for us to attend as an anniversary gift to ross. it was a slightly stressful trip there as we dealt with both austin and san antonio traffic and trying to find an ATM machine to get cash to pay for parking. but we made it just in time. the opening guy was funny, i have forgotten his name but he is apparently one of the voices in the Bee movie. it was not seinfeld. chris rock was also funny. it was a great time, we laughed and had a good evening together.

ok. so i'm trying to remember back, but this may have been the first stand up comedy deal i've been to. not sure. but what i am sure of is, some people are really annoying. for instance, the people behind us. it was 2 guys and 1 girl. 1 guy would sort of chortle every few seconds in a real deep guttural type noise that was really disturbing. poor guy i guess. the other guy would gasp when he thought something was funny, and then repeat it to the girl (could she not understand chris rock?!!) and then they would both laugh hysterically. this was annoying enough, but when he found something extremely funny, he would clap really really loudly...right next to ross' ear. its sort of like having the c'mon fran guys behind you at the a&m football game. the event is fun, but you remember the benefits of watching things while on your couch with a blanket and a bowl of popcorn.

there was a couple sitting next to me that provided me a side of comedy to go along with chris rock. the girl NEVER laughed, not one time. but she was enjoying herself. i just don't think she can laugh? i'm not sure what the deal was. but i knew she thought it was funny. because every time she found something to be funny, rather than laughing, she would say...'wow, that is really funny.' and her boyfriend would laugh. sometimes she would change it to...'o my gosh, that is hilarious.' and her boyfriend would laugh. and me too a little bit. a girl that can't laugh!

Friday, March 14, 2008

spring breakin' it

ahh, the blessed time of year known as spring break, that i once again get to partake in since i am a teacher. mine has been awesome, i took a quick weekend trip up to portland to help with their church youth retreat and it was amazing. it was very good to worship God with such great friends, and to see some lives changed. it was a very refreshing weekend. some of my friends had just had their 2nd baby about 2wks ago, and so i got to see him as well, which was cool. he was very cute and small and fun to hold. though i was under strict orders not to come home wanting a baby. so i don't.

i came back on tuesday and have spent the greater part of the last 3 days doing absolutely nothing. it has been wonderful. peyton thinks any time that i am at home, particularly if i'm sitting at the computer, that i should be taking her for a walk. she continually tries to get me to go to the front door. i have been taking her to the park each day, on wednesday evening ross went with us, and yesterday we were there for about 2hrs eating lunch and getting some exercise. i've done a little housework and a ton of relaxing! sadly, spring break is only a week and i shall return to school monday, hopefully remembering to wear green, as i'm sure it will be very important in the middle school world. last night i had a dream that i had not prepared a lesson and was frantically trying to come up with something just before class. this is really not that far from the truth if i don't get crackin on some school stuff at some point this weekend.

i suppose that i should also mention that ross and i celebrated our first anniversary on march 3rd!!! i guess i was so overwhelmed by school that this slid through the cracks of the blog. we actually celebrated it on sunday march 2 for convenience, but felt a little better about it since due to leap year, we had actually been married for 365 days on this date. we spent the whole day together, relaxing and hanging out. we then went to eat at saltgrass, which is where our very first date was in san antonio and has been a special restaurant to us. the food and service were excellent. ross was very thoughtful and bought me a gift certificate to a really amazing spa in the lake travis area. its good for a half day of beauty there, or i can split it up and go four separate times. he thought i might need the massage right now, or he thought i might want to save it for the week i get out of school as a celebration. i'm going to try to save it till then, but i might get desperate. i was also feeling romantic and thoughtful....and bought him tickets to see chris rock in a few weeks. whatever.

my sister drops through town on her way back to college tonight and we are hoping to take her sailing if there's wind tonight. i love spring break!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ranting on Net Neutrality

Warning: Proselytizing rant on net neutrality ahead. There's no personal news.

Disclosure: I have always been a very hard line believer in open source, open protocols and open standards. I'm generally anti-corporation (remember I quit USAA for their behavior as a corporation). So everything I say will be biased by my personal beliefs. However, that doesn't have to mean I'm wrong ;)

I'm not typically comfortable stumping for a cause or trying to convert people b/c I try hard to leave people as they are. On the other hand, this time, I care more than usual about it so I was wondering what I could do to help people understand net neutrality and what's at stake. The answer I was consistently given was spread awareness. This is my attempt to do just that.

Net neutrality is a very simple concept - but it's also easily distorted. Let's say that I can connect to the internet at a certain speed (probably b/c I pay someone to allow me access) and you can connect to the internet at that speed or higher. Then net neutrality is the guarantee that you and I can communicate at that speed. There is no magic required to ensure this guarantee because it is the natural state of connectivity. To slow down that speed (based on what you send me - say a video for example) would have to be engineered on purpose.

First I want to try to explain "the industries" arguments. By industries I do of course sarcastically refer to companies like AT&T. I want to then try to break down what I think is wrong with them and what I think the logical consequences of their ideas are.

It's become rather famous in internet circles that a certain member of congress defined the internet as a series of tubes like your kitchen plumbing. He stated that you can't just pull up to the tubes with a dump truck and dump everything in there at once b/c you ... clog it up. He went on to portray AT&T as the savior of the internet by providing access to "highways" on which special kinds of traffic could travel - approved "premium" content. Well there is no response to this argument. There is no response to it because its a big, stupid, ignorant lie. It is obvious this particular congressman knows nothing about the technical world we live in. The internet is not a series of tubes. You can't pull a dump truck up to and throw the world into the tubes to clog it up. That's because they aren't tubes. Your connection is a copper wire and you can't "fill" it. That doesn't have a real-world meaning. The internet self-controls congestion and the basic economic principles of scarcity (i.e. unavailability due to wait times)causes humans to naturally govern their usage. This hasn't had to happen yet. The reasons why are a little technical but I'll do my best to simplify them. What AT&T has paid this representative to imply is that their capacity for transmitting data is nearing capacity and they want you to believe that the internet is in the beginning of a saturation in which no information will be able to get in or out. This so far hasn't come CLOSE to reality. There is beginning to be a limit to the number of machines that we can continue to connect, but this is already a solved problem and has nothing to do with the amount of data currently being transmitted. I want to tell you more about your connectivity and the speeds you SHOULD be getting, but that is for a later paragraph regarding who owns these "tubes" and who paid for this "tubes". Just understand from this paragraph that neutrality means someone can not artificially slow down your connection and that it is mathematically provable that capacity is not yet close to reachable. I'm not completely satisfied with this answer b/c I haven't offered you any proof. I'm asking you to trust me on this one or better yet, research it yourself while being extremely careful about the source if your information.

I read a recent article that said to ensure that certain kinds of traffic cannot be slowed down would grant special privilege to that kind of content (let's continue to assume we mean video b/c videos are large compared to text). That might superficially sound plausible until you realize the big joke is that if you artificially slow down content, it's the fast content that has had an advantage conferred upon it. In this case the truth is exactly the opposite of the claim.

Media companies like TWC and AT&T are interested in controlling content and in this sense the battle for net neutrality is very much like the war being waged against bad intellectual property rights (copyright, patents, ownership etc) concerning software. A non-neutral internet could easily become a lot like cable TV for example. You can connect by ordering specific grouping of internet content. Think of it like this: maybe you want to order the social content package from TWC. This consists of email, myspace, facebook and maybe some chat forums. To get access to technical articles or news, you would have to additionally order other kinds of content. Not only are you paying for the content, but the providers of the content have to pay to be hosted. That's a lot like writing a text message on your phone and both the sender and receiver get charged. Let's call this the managed content model.

I want to make the argument against managed content on the internet as the basis for why net neutrality is important. Historically information mediums begin as a two way process. Provider and reader are interacting. Published print and radio are fine examples of something which began as a two way medium, became commercialized and turned into managed content and then became a one way medium in which only the provider has a say in what is published. My argument is that this minimalization of feedback degrades the quality of content. It provides no safeguards or fact checking of information and it leaves the "common man" out of the information loop. The laws are setup to achieve this goal (not as a conspiracy but b/c it makes money). The FCC is the perfect example of this. They split the radio spectrum largely b/w cbs and nbc. They became responsible for 97% of the radio content. Wonder what that would be like? It becomes a propaganda outlet for the owners (think FOX News and Rupert Murdoch as an example). I'm not going to explain the details of why I think information feedback loops are critically important because I think it speaks for itself. However by means of example, without the feedback loop and two way communication, the study of science could not progress.

Another argument the big media companies love to present is that it's THEIR "tubes" and they have an inherent RIGHT to mandate it's rules. This is completely misrepresenting "the tubes". The phone and cable companies were given incredible amounts of money to make sure United States homes would be connected by fiber (incredibly fast compared to your current copper wire connection) by sometime 2 years ago. They idea is that they were allowed to drastically overcharge you (500% in some cases) and not pay taxes on this overcharge if they would agree to spend it upgrading your "tubes". Guess what? They never upgraded them. The bottom line here though is that we paid for them ourselves with what is essentially a tax bailout. They didn't deliver their end of the bargain and yet the tubes are still theirs. This falls horribly wrong for another reason. The media companies never created the content themselves. They never created any browsing software, any information, any viewing mechanism etc. What they provided was a series of wires to connect the good stuff together.

So get this...
This means that under a managed media plan, you pay, your content provider pays and then you pay again through taxes. The phone and cable companies collect all three of these free.

There is another reason they wanted managed content. I mentioned earlier that net neutrality has a lot in common with IP law. The major push against neutrality by the media corporations is that they can contain software piracy and a lock on a market. This is a big topic by itself and would be the subject of many posts. Basically however, it means something like this: I want to download your music or video game with a popular transfer protocol called P2P. TWC might recognize it and because someone else might use it to pirate data, slow the speed down to such a degree that it would takes many months to download it where as it could have taken minutes before hand. By the way, Comcast is already doing this.

In a nutshell I am advocating net neutrality based on rejecting the media companies claim to own the data and the "tubes". I'm advocating it b/c I believe managed content models are a very serious threat to the information we can send back and forth to each other and I'm advocating it b/c of the critical importance of two way communication.

So this was long and boring I know but what can you do? I can talk more about any of the topics given though I doubt anyone wants me to ;) I just wanted to spread some awareness around and warn people not to take their cues on technology from 70 year old congressmen who still use rotary phones and think a web site is some kind of new fangled construction site.