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Beer On May 1st 1980, a group of my friends and I attended an anniversary party.  Actually, I suppose I should say ‘attempted to attend’, because we arrived early and there were, as yet, no festivities.  Being young and easily bored, we cast about for something else to do.  Someone (I don’t recall who) suggested we all go to a nearby abandoned quarry for some swimming and rock climbing.  It seemed like such a great idea at the time.

Upon our arrival at said quarry, I cast my gaze upon a 100-foot sheer cliff face, a remnant of mining operations past.  Without a thought or concern (hell – I was 16 years old, for chrissake) I strode up to the wall and began my ascent.

Everything proceeded beautifully until I reached a point about 30 feet up the cliff.  As I looked about me, searching for the next handhold, my friend Jason shouted to me from behind and below.

“Don’t go up that way, Terry,” Jason admonished.  “You can’t make it to the top that way.  You need to go up where Dion [another friend, scaling the cliff 25 feet to my right] is.”

My response to this was elegant in its simplicity:  “Fuck you, Jason,” I yelled over my shoulder, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And then I fell off the cliff.  30 feet onto solid rock.

Much craziness ensued.  Dion ran barefoot more than a mile to summon help.  All my friends got soaked to the chest helping the emergency personnel transport my stretcher across a raging river.  My mother was summoned to the hospital on the second try (the first try was Jason, who called at my request.  My mother failed to answer the phone because she had grown tired of answering the damn thing that particular evening.  Jason let it ring for so long, though, that when a nurse called back, mom felt guilty enough to answer).  I was x-rayed almost unto glowing.  End result?  A broken and dislocated wrist, and multiple contusions and abrasions.

And May 1st officially became Fuck You Jason Day.  It’s my favorite holiday of the year, and I celebrate it without fail.  Traditionally, celebration of Fuck You Jason Day took the form of calling Jason on May 1st – preferably at 2 am, necessarily collect – just to say ‘Fuck you, Jason.’  This is the way in which I celebrated the holiday for the first 15 years of its existence.

But then, in 1995, Jason died, making it impossible for me to call him, collect or otherwise.  Cancer came for him, first showing itself in his lungs, eventually invading the entirety of his body.  It pretty much ate him alive, and believe me, boys and girls – cancer is evil, evil, evil.

Let me tell you a little about Jason.  I used to call him ‘tall, fuzzy and ugly’, and he was all those things.  And yet, he was constantly surrounded by stunningly beautiful women.  Just one more damn thing I’ll never understand about women, I guess.

Despite the many attempts to canonize Jason post-mortem, saintliness was never anywhere near him.  He was obnoxious and belligerent, and I loved him like a brother.  He was stubborn and opinionated, and he was just about the best friend you could ever ask for.  More than once I have insisted that he was actually a comic book character.

I remember a night in the early eighties when Jason and I went to a local bar.  We were disinclined to pay the cover charge that night, so we endeavored to sneak into the place.  The bouncer caught us and promptly kicked us to the curb.  Not to be outdone, Jason and I walked around to the back door of the bar and quickly snuck our way in.

The bouncer who had initially booted us noticed our unauthorized presence and immediately escorted us back to the door.  At said door, I insisted on finishing the beer I had purchased, a decision the bouncer reacted to by attempting to wrest the beer from my grip.  There was a brief struggle that ended with the mug of beer falling (I swear I remember it in slow motion) to the ground and shattering spectacularly.  The bouncer and I shouted at each other for a few minutes, after which he threatened to call the police, a threat that Jason and I met with the kind of disdain that can only be achieved by a couple of 18-year-olds who have never really had to pay for their own mistakes.

So while the bouncer returned to the bar to call the authorities, Jason and I wandered into the parking lot and sat upon a stranger’s car while we awaited the arrival of our (alleged) doom.

It only took a few minutes.  A police car came screaming down the street and turned into the parking lot, tires squealing.  It pulled up alongside the car we were sitting on, and a police officer threw open the door and leapt from the car.

Jason jumped to the ground.  “They saw you coming,” he exclaimed, pointing westward, “They took off that way!”

The police officer said “Thanks!”, leapt back into his car, and drove off.

I stared at Jason in dumbfounded admiration for a moment, then joined him as he fled the scene.

That was the kind of guy Jason was.  He could actually pull shit like that off.

So I’m missing Jason a little more than usual – thinking about him a little more than usual – because it’s that time of year.  Tomorrow is Fuck You Jason Day, and I will celebrate in the fashion I have done so since Jason died:  I will go to the cemetery and drink a beer (or two) with my favorite dead guy.  And I will be careful to pour the backwash upon his grave.  It’s only fitting.  I know some people think it’s a little odd, but I don’t really care.  I haven’t stopped loving Jason just because he died.  Our friendship endures.  And it’s the kind of friendship that gets the joke.

And so I wish you all a most pleasant May Day.  I know at least two couples who were married on the day, and I wish them a most sincere Happy Anniversary.  For me, though, May 1st will always be Fuck You Jason Day, and it will be a personal holiday that belongs to my dead buddy Jason.  So there’s really only one good salutation:

Fuck You, Jason.

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Justice So the next-gen iPhone scandal continues apace.  For those of you scratching your heads, the Readers’ Digest version:

An engineer from Apple reportedly ‘lost’ a prototype of the next version of the iPhone.  An unidentified man ‘found’ said iPhone (I say ‘lost’ and ‘found’ because we have only the unidentified man’s word for the veracity of this scenario).  Despite the fact that the mystery man found a plethora of information about the engineer within the iPhone itself, rather than returning the device (or turning it over to the authorities) he chose instead to sell the phone for $5,000 to Gizmodo.

Gizmodo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is what is commonly referred to as a Gadget Blog.  Also referred to as Technology Porn, it is one of many such blogs that make their living by gushing over the latest and greatest high-tech gadgets in the marketplace.

Jason Chen is the blogger at Gizmodo who subsequently posted an item about the iPhone.  Gizmodo even went so far as to post pictures of the iPhone in a dismantled state.  And they stepped way over the line by posting the name of the engineer who ‘lost’ the phone (the lie they told to justify this bit of sensationalist crap is that they were ‘protecting’ the engineer because Apple wouldn’t dare fire him after Gizmodo posted his name.  As if Apple wouldn’t just go ahead and fire an engineer who misplaced such a device anyway).

This all raised a pretty big stink out in the interwebs, and much discussion of the issue occurred.  And then it pretty much faded away.  That is, until Friday, when law enforcement officials showed up at Chen’s house with a warrant and took away a truckload of electronics in the form of computers, hard-drives, cameras and whatnot.  Naturally, many assume that Apple is behind the warrant.  Personally, until this development I suspected Apple of being complicit in the whole story in an attempt to garner publicity for their new device (I’m sure they could use some after the lack of excitement over the iPad).

Anyway, you can imagine the gnashing of teeth surrounding the whole affair.  The warrant evidently stated that the gadgetry seized from Chen’s residence may have been “used as a means of committing a felony” or could “show a felony has been committed.”  It seems pretty clear that Chen and Gizmodo knew damn well that they were breaking the law (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t know it was a felony).

Gizmodo, through their COO, is claiming that the warrant was invalid because Chen should be covered by state and federal ‘shield’ laws because Chen is a journalist.  Journalists’ notes, pictures, data and such are not supposed to be seizable by warrant.  Rather, courts are supposed to subpoena the journalist for such items.

I’m sorry, but I really have to draw the line at this ‘journalist’ crap.  Calling Gizmodo (or the bulk of the rest of the gadget blogs) ‘journalism’ is pure douchebaggery and an insult to all true journalists in this world.  Have you read any of these blogs?  Their ‘stories’ consist of no more than a few paragraphs (often only one) that take one of two forms:  the first is a direct copy-and-paste from a real article the ‘author’ then links to.  The second is just a hastily-scrawled, poorly written and invariably misspelled blurb (I would like to dispel the fiction that misspelled words in articles posted on the internet can be excused simply by calling them ‘typos’.  Originally, typographical errors described spelling errors that occurred during the type-setting part of the publishing process.  This was a phenomenon specific to printed media, and the distinction was made to point out that the error was beyond the author’s control.  In the case of articles published on the internet, misspellings are solely the responsibility of the author, and are indicative of a lazy and/or sloppy over-reliance on spell-checkers).

Edward R. Murrow was a journalist.  Bill Moyers is a journalist.  Journalists go to dangerous places and take personal risks to report stories that are of actual import to human beings.  Journalism is most certainly not about the latest celebrity break-up.  Nor is it about the latest shiny bauble up for sale.  There is a world of difference between news and gossip.  The business of journalists is news.  Blogs, on the other hand, are most often in the business of gossip.

If, for some bizarre reason, there are state and federal laws protecting gossips (or douchebags), then Chen should enjoy their protection.  If no such laws exist, Chen and the company he works for should get spanked.  Hard. What they do is not journalism, and they should not be allowed to wrap themselves in journalism’s protective blanket just by claiming they deserve it.  That blanket should be reserved for people who have actually earned it.

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internet Living in an area rife with colleges, our lives tend to be awash in free publications.  They vary in quality from excellent to – well – crap.  Yesterday, I was perusing a paper that lands somewhere away from the excellent end of the spectrum, and I came across an article written by a guy who calls himself a ‘parenting expert’.  The oxymoronic nature of this label struck me as being so humorous I felt compelled to tweet a tweet on the subject.  One of my tweeps (not sure how I feel about that term.  On the surface, I kind of like it, but I’m generally ill-disposed toward words that don’t lend themselves to the singular) responded, calling the ‘parenting expert’ a professional delusionist. I asked permission to use the term, and it was granted (thanks, Jason).

Truth be told, I am so fond of the term Professional Delusionist that I am seriously thinking about including it on my business cards and résumé.  I’ll probably put it right after Outrageous Liar.

Anyway, the delusionist oversimplified parenting styles into two oppositional categories,  then went on to explain how his personal theory fit perfectly in the middle.  Having thus proven his idiocy, he finished up his piece with a ‘fact check’ in which he endeavored to “correct some misinformation that is out there”.  This ‘correction’ includes an admonishment to “check the records (not the Internet)”, as well as a brief discussion of how a tidbit of misinformation “ran wild on the Internet”.

Okay.  Let’s see if we can hack this to bits.  A good place to start would be the common misperception that disinformation and the Internet are conjoined twins.  The adage “Don’t believe everything you read (or hear)” was kicking around long before anyone dreamed up the Internet, and for good reason.  People lie.  They do it often, for a multitude of reasons, and in pretty much all media.  Sometimes they do it knowingly, but oft-times they do it because they think they’re doing the exact opposite.  But this is a discussion for another day.

The Internet, unlike most other forms of media, has the ability to correct itself.  It is a constantly-evolving creature (I hear you, Drew.  Allow me a bloody metaphor.  Possibly an analogy and/or simile).  There was a time when only geeks could effectively navigate the archipelagoes of cyberspace, but as times have changed, so has the Internet.  This manifests itself as better browsers, more intelligent search engines, more intuitive web sites and cleaner code.

Translated to human:  The Internet works better than it used to.  And anyone can use it well, if they just treat it as critically as they treat their newspaper or TV.

Allow me to demonstrate.  Open up another browser window, or just another tab.  Go to Google and search for:

Man Arrested for Wearing McCain Shirt at Obama Victory Rally

Those of you who are intensely lazy can just click on this.

Okay.  Let’s look at our results.  The first thing that should catch your eye is that the titles of all the links we’re seeing are very similar.  This is the kind of thing that should throw up warning flags.  What it’s telling us is that all those pages are either A) linking to the same source, or B) linking to each other.

We can put these results to the test.  In this case, we’re looking at page after page that discuss a McCain supporter who was arrested at an Obama victory rally just for wearing a pro-McCain T-shirt! It seems to me that if such an event actually occurred, there would be some mention of it in the news.

Let’s go back to our search page.  At the top left, you see a list:  Web, Images, Videos, Maps, News, Shopping, Gmail, more.  Click on ‘News’ and see what happens.

Nothing.  Not a single mention in the news (not even at Fox!) of this event.  Does this mean that the event did not occur?  No.  Just that it’s unlikely.

Alright.  So here’s what we just did – we started with a rumor (in blue letters above), we found out whether it was being talked about (our first search), then we checked to see if any reputable sources were talking about it (our second, ‘news’ search).  In a nutshell, we came across a rumor and determined that it was crap. And all it took us a couple of minutes.

This, my friends, is the power of the Internet.  But it only works if you couple it with a discerning mind.

Which is what far too few people do.  A friend once told me about a phenomenon he referred to as ‘barroom philosopher’.  A ‘barroom philosopher’ is a person who expresses their ideas in a room full of drunken people.  When the rest of the drunks agree with them, the ‘barroom philosopher’ thinks that they’re actually onto something.  It doesn’t occur to them to question the fact that a bunch of drunks are agreeing with them.

The Internet has a similar phenomenon, and Jason hit upon it last night.  Jason spoke of the Professional Delusionist, but the Internet is populated with a different creature.  What you find on the Internet are internet Prowling amateur delusionists.

Or iPads.

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internet By now, you may have heard about the recent case concerning Net Neutrality.  It got a lot of air time on the geek sites.  Most of it was fairly accurate, some hyperbolic.  There are more than a few who termed it Bad News for the cause of Net Neutrality.  From where I’m standing, though, the decision looks like Good News for the cause.  I’ll tell you why.

First, let’s take a look at Net Neutrality.  Wikipedia has a decent article on the subject.  If you have the time and feel so inclined, give it a read.  For the rest of you, I’ll give it to you in a nutshell:

The internet is still fairly new, and therefore so are Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  At the onset of general, commercialized internet availability, ISPs simply provided a sort of blanket access.  For the most part, internet access was largely just a question of on or off.  In the early days (those dark but exciting days of dial-up), customers were often charged by usage – you may remember offers of so many minutes per month for a flat fee.  Much of this eventually graduated into unlimited usage, a move that pretty much solidified with the advent of widespread broadband.  And until fairly recently, this was the status quo.

For the providers, however, the status was not as quo as they would have liked.  The idea of charging general, flat fees put a serious twist in their knickers.  Especially because these newer ISPs were often utilities (phone and/or cable companies) that were used to fleecing customers in a highly detailed fashion.  So they focused their energies into devising new and seemingly justified ways to charge their customers more.

What they came up with was a service-based model.  The idea here is that some internet usage (the ‘service’) uses more bandwidth and therefore should cost more.  Streaming video uses more bandwidth than sending email (the argument goes), so shouldn’t the person streaming video pay more than the person sending email?

For those of you wondering, the answer is an emphatic no.  There are a variety of reasons for the fat letters, but I’ll only address my two favorites.  The first is that the connection you are paying for is already limited.  You’re already paying for a certain amount of bandwidth, and I’ll guarantee that very few of you ever approach it.  And in most cases, you’re not always receiving the bandwidth you think you’ve been promised (read the fine print).  The second – and far more important reason – is that the only way your ISP can know whether you are sending email or streaming video is if they stick their noses where they don’t belong.

And yes – you all know my position on privacy and the internet.  While there is no real privacy on the internet, this does not mean we should invite further invasion from our ISP.

Anyway, the various ‘service-based’ pricing schemes proposed are called tiered service by the ISPs.  They’re called price discrimination by those who oppose them.  And Net Neutrality is the idea that pricing by content and/or service (by any name) is a basic violation of our rights.

Okay.  Now let’s move on to the recent case.  If you’re so inclined, you can read the decision yourself (PDF).  The upshot is that a few years back, some Comcast customers found that their bandwidth was being throttled because they were sharing files peer-to-peer.  A couple of Hey-Corporate-Dirtbags-Americans-Have-Rights type organizations got involved, as did the courts and the FCC, and Comcast got spanked.

Although Comcast complied with the ruling, they also challenged it, the result of which is this recent decision.  And what the actual decision amounts to is simply this:  That the FCC does not actually have the authority to regulate an ISP’s network management practices.

This decision has been regarded by many as a blow against Net Neutrality.  I disagree, because I can’t really convince myself that taking control of internet service away from the provider and giving it to the government would constitute any sort of victory for Net Neutrality.  Especially when we look at the details.

The original ruling presumed the FCC’s authority over ISPs based on The Communications Act of 1934 (that’s right – 1934), specifically the vaguely-worded 4th Section of said Act, which states:

The Commission may perform any and all acts, make such rules and regulations, and issue such orders, not inconsistent with this chapter, as may be necessary in the execution of its functions.

This, despite the fact that a previous ruling (previous to the Comcast ruling – later than the Act of 1934) found that:

cable Internet service is neither a “telecommunications service” covered by Title II of the Communications Act nor a “cable service” covered by Title VI.

This recent ruling was about the FCC and its authority.  In the end, absolutely nothing was decided on the subject of Net Neutrality.  And I would argue that the FCC being no longer considered to have regulatory authority over internet service based solely on a vaguely-worded, ill-defined, 80-year-old Act is rather a victory for Net Neutrality.

It’s not that the FCC shouldn’t be thrust into the role of watchdog for Net Neutrality, it’s just that they should only do so if they themselves are subject to rules that are written specifically to address the issues at hand.

It’s a very, very bad idea to give a government agency a free hand.

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