Category Archives: Serious Time

Vote 2016 Part 2: One Week Later

I’m not a Democrat. I’m certainly not a Republican. I consider myself politically independent, because I’m a precious little snowflake with completely unique views on all the issues. I take the time during every election to sit down and research every candidate, and then I make my pick based entirely on the facts, using cold, emotionless reason to make my choices. I am a voting machine, almost literally.

So it was unusual when, last week, I voted for every single Democratic candidate, and not a single Republican. I did this because I plainly could not bring myself to vote for the same party that even marginally supported Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s national campaign of hate for 99% of the world’s population was a bit too much for me, and I could not in any way support the institution that sat back and said, “Yes, this is fine. Please do this more.” Yes there were Republicans that chastised Trump for… grabbing pussy? They were okay with everything else? Especially the “Mexicans are rapists” crap? That got the man fired from NBC, but, no, the Republicans were pretty extraordinarily cool with that. I was not, and I could not in good conscious vote for any institution that was.

But I was evidently the minority. Okay, that isn’t true, Clinton did win the popular vote, but it didn’t help. Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America, and, God help us all, he will be our sitting President for the next four years.

And, in trying to discern how we got to this point, I remembered my own brief political career.

This will surprise absolutely no one, but I was kind of a nerd in high school. I was the morning DJ for our in-house television network, a member of the computer club, and I fooled around in the school play my senior year. But before all that, the club I joined before I even technically attended high school (they start early!) was marching band. I had been in “band” since fourth grade (I was a nerdy middleschooler, too!), and despite some of my friends dropping out of the activity to pursue “cool” endeavors like track or basketball, I was going to stick with marching band. It was a lot of effort for very little fame or recognition, but I’ve got my trumpet, I’m going to blow my horn on that football field like a champ!

Only problem was that I wasn’t very good at it.

I wasn’t terrible. I’ve got quick fingers (for some reason), and the ability to move in time with other marchers, but, ultimately, I don’t think I ever had the lips for it. Or the rhythm. Or the endurance. Or the ability to memorize music. Or the attention span to ever practice for more than five minutes. In retrospect, I probably could have been the best little trumpeter in the history of trumpeting, but I’d rather be playing Final Fantasy 7 (released opposite my first marching band season), and I was pretty much just in the band to hang out with my (predominantly extra nerdy) peer group. I was never going to be first trumpet, drum major, or even a remotely good role model for the incoming freshman, so I basically just resigned myself to being a marching band “body” in the formation.

But I did realize where I might be able to make a difference: band management.

My sophomore year, I ran for band vice president. I ran on a platform of electing me, an underclassman, as vice president now, so I could learn the ropes, and then make big changes when I was inevitably president the following year (and I’d be a Junior President, not a Senior, which would mean I’d actually care about the band because I wasn’t about to graduate out in a year). I ran on a platform of issues within the band that I’d make it my purpose to reform, and I did my best to appeal to the valuable freshman vote, because I figured they’d have the most reason to support an underclassman with their interests at heart.

I lost.

I… wasn’t terribly surprised.

The following year, my friend Toni decided to run for band president. Toni was not a political person, and only volunteered for candidacy because the graduating seniors thought she would be a good president. Toni was not super popular, she was simply that kind of person that fails to exist in teen movies: well-liked, generally personable, but not ever going to be prom queen or class president. Her greatest accomplishment was not offending practically anyone. Suffice it to say, she was not exactly a shoe-in for band president, but she chose me as her running mate. She remembered my campaign from the previous year, and basically said, “Hey, wanna be my VP? Nobody else wants to do it.” She… might have literally said that.

So I agreed, and we had a week to prepare for the “election”, which would take place after everyone running for office presented a short speech on “why you should vote for me (us)”. We did nothing during that week. We didn’t canvass the voters, we didn’t try to grease the gears of democracy, and I don’t think we even actually saw each other. We kind of ran in different social circles, so, meh, we’ll throw something together on Election Day.

And throw something together we did. In the fifteen minutes before practice started, Toni and I worked out a kick-ass speech, mostly written by yours truly. It had slogans. It had audience participation. It involved a random conscripted dude (who I’m pretty sure had a crush on Toni) tossing a tennis ball on stage so she could prove she’d “catch” any incoming problems. It was a thing of beauty, and, to this day, one of my greatest regrets is that it was not recorded or in any way transcribed, because it was one of those rare occasions in my life where I can safely say I went from zero to hero inside of a half hour.

And we won. Despite running against some of the most popular kids in the marching band (Ha! Oxymoron!), we achieved victory. When I canvassed the band geeks about my (surprising) victory a little later, the most common response was, “Well, I voted for you because you put the most effort into your campaign.” That was, as I’ve said, complete bullshit, but it was bullshit no one recognized. We won on a platform of a complete lie, and I’m still proud of such an achievement.

Now, I obviously want to draw a comparison between my own stupid little marching band campaign and that of the woefully under qualified and already-backpedaling President Elect, but there’s a coda to my story…

Unlike my losing sophomore run, my victorious junior Vice Presidency was predicated on a platform of “hey, why not”. Toni and I had no real “plan” for the band, and the following year… Uh… Well, sorry to say, but I don’t think there was a band student government. I remember showing up for one meeting in the Fall, and past that… No, I think we literally did nothing. Toni and I straight up failed the band geeks, and I want to say the reason the Class of 2001 Band Trip was “nowhere” was entirely on us. We went to California in 1999! 2001? Nothing. The following year, there were no band government elections, and the director simply chose the smelly kid to be president by right of “she’ll probably actually do something”. As a result, I felt as bad as a teenager could possibly feel about marching band student government, which isn’t really that much. Does this impact how often I make out with my girlfriend? No? Okay then.

But it’s that feeling that I want to talk about. It’s that feeling that made President Trump.

Look, that stuff earlier about not being a Democrat? It’s bullshit, I know I’m a Democrat. About 90% of my beliefs align with Democratic Philosophy, and much of the Republican platform makes me downright ill. Right off the top of my head, I don’t think I could ever vote for a party that so vehemently indicts a woman’s right to choose (and it doesn’t matter to me whether that’s because of a genuine belief, or a desperate need for the evangelical vote). And, as I’ve been reminded in recent days, I have a lot of friends and family with similar beliefs. Even the people that seem to be just generally in my orbit (local business owner I’m kinda friends with, retired secretary from a job I had fifteen years ago, ex-mistress of a dude I used to be in a band with) all seem to vaguely Democratic, and it makes me think that these people are my friends and support group because we share similar temperaments and beliefs. It’s a stereotype, but the archetypical “all bluster” Republican is not the kind of guy (inevitably guy) that I can deal with on a frequent basis, so people with those tendencies have fallen by the wayside as I’ve aged. It’s almost entirely by accident, but I surround myself by likeminded people, and they’re mostly all Democrats (or at least, evidently, very anti-Trump).

And, honestly, I feel like a great problem with my social circle is that we’re all a bunch of weenies.

Yes, we talk a big game. Yes, we post those dank memes about our favorite candidates. But, when you get down to it, I think I have exactly one (1) friend on my entire buddy list that is active about actually getting off her ass and going to political rallies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of my friends hold up a protest sign for anything but eating meat, and I can very safely say not a single one of my friends has ever stood up to law enforcement for any reason (because I know my friends, and if it happened to a single one of them, they’d never stop talking about it, ever). We’re not fighters, but again, I feel like my social circle breaks that way is because I don’t like fighting. Who needs the aggravation?

And I keep coming back to that stupid marching band election. I keep coming back to how thrilled I was to win, and then how useless I was as an actual politician. That was just on the meager level of a high school marching band (here’s a tip, a high school marching band has never dramatically impacted international politics), but it’s still an event that sticks in my mind. There, at the age of sixteen (or so?), I had already determined that I might be a great showman, but I’m a terrible leader. Or vice-leader. Whatever. Point is that I could use theatrics to win a position I’m not trained for, but that wouldn’t make my qualifications any less insubstantial, and, ultimately, the people that voted for me would suffer. I’m certain I’m not the only one of my friends, not the only Democrat, with this experience, and I’m sure there are a million Democrats out there that are fit for public office, but don’t want to descend into that “dog and pony show” sphere that Is the current political arena. Any of these Democrats could make a killing in the political field, but who wants to be subject to the circus that is modern day politics?

Well, maybe someone would like to step up and be the next “Democrat version of Trump”. Here’s a fun fact: a Democratic Trump might be a crazy misrepresentation of his or her party, but they couldn’t be nearly as racist as the Trump campaign! And that’s important!

Look, we all know the world we live in today. I spent months making that Bohemian Rhapsody video for the #200 entry, but I know that I could get about twelve times more hits if I just posted a video of my mother’s cats chasing a laser pointer. They’re such silly kitties! How many people here have ever posted a link to Youtube, and added the qualifier, “oh, wait for it, it gets good after fifteen seconds”? Think about that. Think about what it means that you have to convince someone to wait fifteen seconds to get to a good part, and think about what it means that you know most people won’t even bother to do that. We all know we live in the information age, and, if, you know where to look, you could literally download every song that has ever existed, right now, for free, and be listening to the entire playlist by dinnertime. You could be playing the entire NES library right now, for free, and the only reason you’re not is because you have other things to do with your time. And that’s the crux of it, with so many avenues available, we no longer have to worry about being bored ever.

So why do we think a “boring” candidate is ever going to work again? Why did Clinton campaign on policy and facts when her opponent could literally deny what he said seconds earlier midway through a sentence? Why, in the age of hundred word tweets dictating the course of popularity did we ever think winning five hours of live debates would mean anything? How many people actually watched the debates? And how many people actually voted? The answer is ten million less Democrats than voted for the audacity of hope. Let’s face the music, people, politics is entertainment now, and the American public is going to vote for the best entertainer. Trump might wind up being the worst President in the history of the nation, but, dammit, he’s funny to watch. And that’s enough for a lot of people. That’s enough for sixty million people.

And if you want to claim there were a pile of other reasons to vote for Trump, consider how many of those reasons come down to his ability to properly articulate his position and project his own beliefs. He’s a great businessman? No, Paris Hilton was able to grow her inheritance at a better rate than a guy who did nothing but try to please his daddy for decades. He cares about the little guy? No, his long history of business ventures tells the story of a man who absolutely will not pay for anything unless legally forced, and that includes paying small businesses and craftsmen. He’s going to get jobs? Sanction foreign powers? Build a wall? How? He never presented a worthwhile answer to any of those important questions. And, probably his biggest plus, he “feels the pain” of the disenfranchised, he knows the plight of forgotten Middle America, and he’s going to make America the great nation it once was… Except, come on, guys, he’s a wealthy New York City trust fund brat. He’s a “Washington outsider”, yes, but only because no other political party would touch his odious ass over the last seventy years.

But none of that matters, because Trump presented himself as a genuine man who would fight for your rights. Even after… everything… that happened during the last year, he still denied every last allegation, and never wavered on his own belief in himself. I said all along that Trump wasn’t running for President, he was running for Trump, a position that had to be Trump at all times. What I didn’t expect was that so many people wanted Trump to be Trump, and that’s all it takes to become President. People gobbled up Trump hook, line, and sinker, and now we’re all on the sushi table.

I know I’m defeating my own point by throwing 3,000 words at “we need to start thinking like punchy little youtubbers” (Christ, I can’t even think of a concise way to say that), but this is what the world needs right now. Yes, I mean “the world”. Trump is going to be bad for everybody: for proof, just ask Mexico how their market is looking right now after merely the promise of Trump taking power. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I’m not worried about Trump nuking the whole of humanity… and the fact that such a thing is even on the table now is striking. One way or another, Trump is going to be the end of a lot of things, and whether or not these are things that you care about, he’s going to have an impact on the rest of Western society.

And it all wouldn’t have happened if the Democrats hadn’t run, in short, a nerd.

People want their cat videos. People want their ten second memes. People want a candidate that says one thing, and says it over and over again. People want the showman. The Democrats ignored this, and we’re all worse for it. We, every single Democrat, ignored this simple truth. It might have been for the right reasons, but “the right reasons” aren’t going to keep the polar ice caps from melting, or from children growing up in a world filled with racism/misogyny/homophobia. Yes, we’re all afraid of being that ineffectual band vice president (or that might just be me), but it’s time to get out there and do something, and posting nonsense on Facebook isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Run the clown. Join the circus. We literally cannot do any worse than the man that was just elected.

Make Democrats great again.

Vote 2016 Part 1: Naive Optimism

LoserMuch though I loathe to admit it, this is a blog, I am a blogger, and, God help me, I’m pretty sure it’s required by law (BLOGGER LAW!) that I talk about the election. Strap in, my lovelies, it’s time to talk politics. We covered religion last time.

Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’ve had a post like this in mind since last year when I started this damn site. In my head, I’ve always seen myself as a gentle, loving creature, floating around the world wearing flowing robes and softly imparting my patience and wisdom upon all who would hear it. This magnanimous version of Goggle Bob would take the day before the election, and post one simple statement, “I don’t care who you vote for, simply vote.” And thus, my blogger duty fulfilled, I would retire to the atrium to feed orphaned baby bunnies. Perhaps later I would smoke a pipe while reading the New Yorker.

Suffice it to say, this election has changed my plans.

In a way, I feel like it always had to be this way. My first real “remembered” election was Clinton vs. Dole, which, from a child’s perspective (well, technically teenager) was basically “old man vs. young man”. Clinton was freewheeling and loveable, Dole was an old fuddy-duddy. I didn’t understand policy or economics or even really “liberal vs. conservative”, simply that Bill Clinton came off as a 21st Century Man, and Bob Dole repeated his name a lot. … Yes, I’m basically admitting that my political views came entirely from shallow Saturday Night Live sketches. I was an informed little non-voter.

LoserAh, but the 2000 election, Al Gore vs. George W. Bush, now that’s something I’ll always remember. While I was personally a Gore supporter, I tried to maintain that earlier mentioned benevolent neutrality, so I was something of a political Switzerland to anyone that happened to ask me about my views. And that happened surprisingly often! I remember with perfect clarity a pair of classmates asking who had my vote, and, upon hearing my “I try to stay out of that stuff,” I received a retort of, “You have to care about this election! Don’t you care if a woman can get an abortion!?” To be perfectly honest? I didn’t. I figured I had about as much political sway as a housecat, so what’s the point in worrying about such a thing? Not like it particularly impacted me at the time, anyway. I’m pretty sure that, thanks to public high school sex education, I was going to be wearing six condoms if a woman so much as came within seventeen yards of my jeans. Abortion, war, economics? I understood all these concepts, but they seemed to impact me about as much as my toothpaste choice. Mint or plain? Whatever.

Then the 2000 Election actually happened. I was for Gore, but Bush won in the highly contested final hour. Say what you will about elections being stolen or what have you, but, one way or another, it didn’t instill a lot of trust in our newly elected president. Shortly thereafter, I had a front row seat to 9/11 (I can still close my eyes and see that black cloud that hung over NYC for a week… I’m not speaking metaphorically), and the war that followed. That war… did not make me happy.

LoserLook, on one side of my family, I’m descended from Quakers. On the other side of my family, I had a very vocal grandmother that described World War II and Vietnam and “all our good boys that died” as practically the worst thing that ever happened to our country (twice). I’m basically genetically disinclined toward war, and the idea of a “warmonger” president riles up my conscientious objector blood. It also doesn’t help that I was draft age when this was going on, so, even though I am a tremendous coward, there was that looming threat of maybe getting shipped off into a warzone for no good reason. If only for his promoting “the War on Terror”, I was going to vote for Bush’s opponent in 2004 if the Democrats ran an actual elephant. And, what’s more, I made my opinion known to anyone that would listen. I didn’t seek out conflict, but if someone asked, I’d list the issues. Searching for WMDs? Slamming our National Debt back into the negatives? There was probably a third thing! I don’t care! Get that damn New England born wannabe Texan out of the White House! Jon Stewart agrees with me!

And it didn’t take. We got another four years of Bush.

That election probably colored my political beliefs more than anything before or since. I was convinced that people weren’t that stupid. It had to be a trick. It had to be wealthy kingmakers manipulating our democracy. No, I didn’t believe it was the Illuminati or some vast conspiracy that traced back to lizard people (incidentally, why are people always so afraid of lizard people running our government? I think lizard people might be a fair ruling class), but I did believe that the Republican Machine had grown too powerful, too “good at it” to ever lose an election again. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing? Evil was greasing the gears and keeping the tank rolling, good was being polite and… neutral. Geez, was my own general detachment from politics hurting my own interests? By this point, I had friends and family members actually serving in this war. Could my own complacency lead to their deaths? My God, the Democrats need to take back the White House.

LoserWhich brings us to Obama. Full disclosure: I supported Hilary Clinton in the 2008 primaries. It wasn’t because I agreed with her policies, gender, or that I loved that our presidential line could go Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton (okay, maybe that last thing was a factor); No, I supported Clinton because I felt like she was the only way we could battle the Republican machine. Clinton was mean, she “worked” like a Republican, and she fought and bit Obama every step of the way. Obama was… polite. Obama came off as smart and reserved, two traits I admire, but terrible when fighting a political war. And he was also black, and his name rhymed with “Osama”. To be absolutely clear, I had no problem with these factors (name rhyme rarely impacts my voting), but I figured there was absolutely no way our clearly racist country would ever elect such a man. We had barely (barely!) gotten over the phrase “Muslim terrorist”, how was the nation going to vote for a secret Kenyan?

(Completely unrelated to anything, but anyone remember how there were cries of “secret Muslim” and that Obama’s (Christian) pastor said a mean thing one time? People are weird.)

But, somehow, against all odds, Obama won. It may have had something to do with the economy being in a death spiral, but an actual, honest-to-God democrat was back in the White House for the first time since I was in high school. Those eight years had seemed… very long.

Obama was a wonderful president, from not only a presidential perspective, but also as a human being. Obviously, I’ve never met the man, but he seemed to be consistently thoughtful and obliging. He was not the graduated frat boy we saw helming the Bush administration, nor the playboy that was Slick Willy. Both of those previous presidents seemed to only want the position for the power it bestowed; Obama was president seemingly to make the country Loser(and world) a better place. In a way, it feels like Obama was the ideal “philosopher king” of yore: a wise and just ruler that solved problems through diplomacy and empathy. And maybe a few drones. Pobody’s nerfect.

And then we have today.

It’s… hard to be okay with anything that is happening in this election.

First of all, to be clear, I like Clinton. Like, actually like her, not just like her for the presidency. I like her policies, I like that those policies have actually evolved over the course of the campaign, and I still like that she’s a pitbull that is likely to go for the Republican jugular. This is not a woman that, at any point in her career, rolled over and said “hey, you guys do what you want, I’m cool with whatever.” This is a woman that has the potential to get things done as a president.

But she’s following the least politic-y politician in my entire lifetime, so it’s hard to get excited. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of Bernie Sanders, but I envy his supporters and the fervor they still seem to possess. That man was a truly different candidate, and, love him or hate him, he at least knew how to get his base excited. It didn’t… uh… help. But good hustle!

LoserBut on the other side of the aisle. Whoa, boy. I could write an entire article about Trump and what he has exposed about the American people. Racism is over? Nope. Misogyny is a thing of the past? Don’t think so. It’s “just the anonymity of the internet” that makes people assholes? No, my Facebook feed says otherwise. I can see you there, with your name in bold, blue letters, posting a meme about Beyoncé wearing yoga pants being exactly the same as Trump committing sexual assault. Trump has somehow managed to bring out the absolute worst in people, and the really scary thing is that people revel in it.

So, even putting aside literally everything about the Republican platform (like, say, women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, or the whole damn healthcare thing), there was never any way I could vote for Trump in good conscious. When you have a candidate that, again, brings out the absolute worst in the population of the country he’s supposed to lead? No, no you can’t let that kind of thing continue. I know that a Trump loss isn’t going to simply make all these disenfranchised people disappear (they’ll just disappear from the news’ radar), but the idea of people that are so okay with… hate… being empowered by “their” president…. I’ll be honest, it downright scares me. In a way, I’m just as fearful of the future as they are, but for completely different reasons.

So, yes, this is my blog post telling every American reading this post to vote Clinton. I’m with her and all that riot. I’m not excited about her, because I want a metaphorical Obama Jr., but she’s the only real choice in this election. America is already pretty great, vote for the woman that is going to keep it that way.

The Joy of Tck

Note about this article: I traditionally despise “rants” that are simply essays that complain about everything, but offer no solutions. Such works strike me as… unsavory. That said, every once in a while you need to vent… so here’s me venting.

As some of you may have guessed from reading this site, I am a professional computer geek. And, as someone in the computer sciences field, I feel I have to say this for everyone.

Technology Professionals are dicks.

It’s a funny thing, because I love technology… and I just realized how easily I can say that as opposed to admitting I love a family member or friend. Obvious emotional issues aside, I’m posting this a scant few days after the release of the Raspberry Pi Mk. 3, a device that, let’s not mince words here, I find sexy as hell. For the unfamiliar, it’s a fully functioning computer with a gig of RAM that fits in the palm of your hand and costs less than a pair of Jacksons. I want to… do things to it. Lewd things. Things that may or may not involve Ninja Turtles. I am anxiously awaiting my new Pi, because it can do things I can do with any other computer, but, oh man, it could fit in my mouth! Pi is delicious!

And, yes, as you’ve guessed, the bulk of this site is only possible thanks to an amazing number of daisy chained HDMI and AV cables that would make your average gamer’s head spin. No, I don’t care too much about resolution or pixel scaling, but I am confident that I can play and record three decades worth of consoles and their games with a few button presses. If I want to play and record some Xenosaga, I barely have to get off the couch. I’m basically living a dream that I first envisioned years ago when I got my dad to crawl behind the entertainment center and juggle wires until I could record Mario Paint to VHS. The Future is a wonderful place.

But all is not well in the 21st Century, and the chief source of this chagrin is what I privately refer to as the Apple Mentality.

Now, I want to be clear before we go any further: I’m not an Apple “hater”. Full disclosure, I have used Microsoft Operating Systems most of my life, and this post is being written in good ol’ Microsoft Word. I’ve also owned Apple computers, initially because I bought into the “the only computer for video/image editing” mentality of the late 20th Century, and then later because, as a tech geek, I wanted to see how the other half “works”. I was neither impressed nor annoyed by the world of Mac. I continue to use Windows primarily not because I prefer it, but because I grow more familiar with its various bugs and glitches every day, and it’s literally my job to know what to do when, say, a user profile service fails to load.

But the smart devices are about where things became… strained.

The iPhone is an amazing device, and it would be no exaggeration to claim that it changed the whole of how the world works within the last decade. Remember when you emailed someone, and you thought it could take 24 hours to reach the recipient? What’s considered the appropriate turnaround time on an email now? Ten minutes? Twenty? If you haven’t heard back from someone within a half hour, do you assume they’re dead? Ignoring you? And, geez, maybe my friends are just klutzes, but how many times have you seen your least popular buddy advertising on Facebook that they damaged their phone, so please contact me at any of these seventeen other services? Remember house phone lines? And horse drawn carriages? I’m still disappointed modern cars don’t poop all over the road.

Though the iPhone is a revolutionary piece of kit, it also has the issue of being locked down like crazy. This is, of course, by design. From a business standpoint, Apple wants to have a platform where only Apple can deliver new content, so new vendors or “app designers” must seek approval from Apple (which, incidentally gets cash from the app vending, and the designer signing up to be a developer in the first place). I don’t fault Apple for this process, because, frankly, it’s a genius way to make money off of practically every step in the process of something being sold on one of their devices. So, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, the App Store itself likely prints more cash than the Mint.

But there’s another reason the App Store, and the iPhone, are built like that. A more protected environment, like one where apps must be approved by Apple, is a safer environment for users. There are not “iPhone viruses” like you encounter on Windows PCs, mostly because that kind of proliferation on the iPhone is practically impossible. This is good! This is a good thing, no question, and makes your ol’ granny surfing the net on her iPad a much less scary proposition than it could be.

But it’s also a giant problem.

Somewhere in there (and maybe this was always the case, but it seems to have gotten more pronounced in recent years) the technology industry got very… paternalistic. No, you can’t do that with your iPhone, it would be dangerous. No, you can’t use your iPad for that, it could hurt somebody. Yes, you want this U2 album, now enjoy it, and eat your potatoes, they’re good for you. It was always under the guise of “we know what’s best”, which, fair enough, you guys are making the technology, but, gawrsh, you don’t think a multi-billion dollar company could ever have an ulterior motive for doing business a certain way, do you? Apple cares about you and your family/data, and isn’t just making decisions so it can finally have enough money to buy its own island and hunt people for sport.

And I feel like two things happening right now are a direct result of this of this technological mollycoddling. First is the item that basically inspired this article, the fact that Apple said, “nah” to the FBI and then made an impassioned plea to its customers about how this was the only right thing to do. Seriously, I don’t say this very often, because I feel like, when writing and rewriting an article for this site, there’s always a better, more intellectual way to phrase this, but, to really sum up my feelings on this one…

Fuck you, Apple.

Apple, you can do whatever you want with your business, and it’s perfectly within your rights to dispute a court order. That kind of thing happens all the time, and it’s practically inevitable with government branches and agencies continually making grabs for more and more power. And, as the case currently stands, I agree with Apple, not because of their reasoning, but because of additional data that seems to paint this particular evidence’s necessity as extremely extraneous. But Apple went the extra mile and appealed to its millions of customers about the big bad government and they’re trying to take away our freedoms and oh man won’t someone please think of the children?! Which, I’m sorry, even typing that sentence makes me mad. It’s disingenuous, because, come on, Apple, you’re a freaking business. I’m not going to accuse Apple of anything, but if it thought that degrading its own encryption could make a buck, it would do it, and we already know the reverse is true: Blackberry let its backend get out in the wild, and the ever popular Chinese Hacker Community transformed Blackberry from an industry leader into smooshed jam. Apple knows damn well that its App Store Money Train would be derailed by this backdoor getting out in the world, and, after the security compromise compromised too many people, guess what would happen? No, it would not “undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect,” it would mean that an Apple alternative would smell blood in the water, and within a year or two, everyone would be towing around jPhones (or probably G-Phones), and the iPhone would be hanging out with the cassette tapes, Commodore 64, and Atari Lynx.

But, no, Apple goes out of its way to make a case to the public that they’re doing this for everyone’s best interest. Eat your vegetables, this is what’s best for you.

Which is pretty much why I think Donald Trump has gained so much traction.

I’m not going to say Donald Trump is a raving lunatic, because that man knows himself some libel laws, but I am going to say that, almost from the get-go, people have said that anyone that supports Trump is completely insane. If you agree with Trump, a certain segment of the population will instantly label you a racist, misogynist, and possible oompaloompaphiliac. And I’m not saying there aren’t Trump supporters that fit that criteria, but automatically labeling someone as a dangerous (we disparage racism [and other isms] because of the damage it can do to society and people, ie dangerous) “other” doesn’t help anyone any more than building an impassable wall would help immigration. You have to take a step back and say “What this man is saying is racist, misogynistic, and overtly disturbing. Why is it so effective?” And, to be clear, I don’t mean in the “why do good things happen to orange people?” rhetorical query, I mean, straight up, can we look at what’s being said here and find the why of it? We should discover what is really appealing to the masses, and not just write the whole thing off as, “Boy, there sure are a whole lot of racist people, right,” post yet another meme or video of an “epic takedown”, and call it a job well done.

And, when I think about it, I come back to my technology-focused brethren.

Even if the public doesn’t have a distinct, real way to vocalize this feeling, I believe that people, on an intrinsic level, understand that we are only being more and more babied in our society. According to our most popular entertainment (and their message boards), we want to be Walter White. We want to be Deadpool (we want to have cancer?). We want to be Rick Grimes, boldly tromping around the wastelands, and making life or death decisions about the fate of humanity. But we don’t get to make life or death decisions. We don’t even get to decide on custom icons. Technology is moving faster than ever in human history, and the average man is being treated like a Neanderthal with a chainsaw. Yes, something new and wonderful may be accomplished here, but it’s a lot more likely someone is going to lose an arm. But we’re not Neanderthals! We’re big boys, with millennia of experience of adapting to new things and deciding what’s right for our society. We’ve read the manual, we’re aiming it away from face, we can handle that chainsaw, we can handle having a choice, there’s no need for some faceless corporation to tell us what’s best. We can decide!

But it ain’t gonna happen.

So the next time your phone updates and drops every feature you’ve ever used, or you score a new computer and the Start Menu is only accessible after a trip to Best Buy, remember that a person made that decision for you, and you’re stuck with it. They know what’s best for you, without ever knowing you, and they will continue to make your decisions for you.

And, when you think about it, it’s kind of a dick move.

Goggle Robbery

Two years ago this coming January, my home was robbed.

It had been a typical day, and, while I was away from my home more than usual for various work and social reasons, I had stopped back for a late lunch, so the house hadn’t been empty very long. When I finally returned that evening, I actually didn’t notice a thing initially. My kitchen was untouched, so I didn’t see anything amiss as I deposited my doggy bag and took a moment to rearrange the fridge. I then used the bathroom, and noticed the vanity was slightly ajar. I thought nothing of it, and slid the mirror closed. Then I put a few items away in my office, and saw the closet door was wide open. “That’s odd,” I said to myself in a jocular manner, “Maybe I’ve been robbed.” I looked in another room, and saw the same, unusual sight: the closet door was wide open. I then looked in my bedroom, and saw the complete contents of my bedroom closet emptied out on my bed (which included, among other items, my [open, emptied onto the bed] trumpet case, which contained at least one chocolate bar I had squirreled away during a band trip around approximately the Paleozoic Era). At this point, my brain still trying to grasp the severity of the situation, I plainly stated, in my best Tweety Bird impression, “I have! I have been robbed!”

It was at about this point that it all clicked together in my head, and I made a mad dash downstairs, home of thirty years of video games and a television larger than some cars. I found the majority of my sanctuary undisturbed (a laptop I had just left unattended on the couch was still sitting right there), though my lockbox, last seen few floors up in my bedroom closet, was now at the lowest point in the house and opened. Presumably the master thief had used the subtle lock-picking technique of “toss it down all the stairs, hope gravity is your friend”. It had worked out for him, technically, though the only items I keep in that safe are various mementos I prefer to be fire-proof, so Mr. Burglar decided to leave such worthless items as a “first receipt” from my friend’s business, or a heartfelt letter from my father (aside: my father is neither dead nor lives very far away; he simply has a tendency to only show emotion via notes written when he’s about to board a plane for vacation, and such items should be preserved for posterity/mocking his phobias later). I also discovered the robber’s entry point: a door with a glass window had been introduced to a rock, and now said rock and broken glass were scattered about my laundry room.

Naturally, I called the police immediately.

… Actually, I may have checked to make sure my copies of both Earthbound and Chrono Trigger were undisturbed. Priorities.

The police came along with my mother, whom I had also summoned, thinking that I was too shell-shocked by the event to properly answer questions or recall precise details. Oddly, my mother’s home and the police station are about equidistant from my house, but my mother arrived at the door first. Moms are tough… and quick?

While the police were investigating the area, I began a formal inventory of everything. I found that, naturally, all the cash I kept in my dresser was gone. To this day, I’m not quite sure how much money was taken. I usually keep about $60 on hand “for emergencies” (“Ugh, the walk needs to be shoveled and I don’t feel like getting out from under this blanket. Can’t I just give some kid a twenty to do it?”), but that number can rise or fall depending on various events and debits. Given the robbery had occurred less than a month after Christmas, I’m assuming my pot was larger than usual, if only because of the number of generously endowed Christmas cards I receive from various well-wishers. I was asked about a “highest estimate” and (again, remember the recent holiday) it may have been as much as $300, all told. Other than that, I searched through everything that had been opened, jimmied, and (presumably) fondled, and found that nothing else had been taken. Considering what I consider valuable, I was very lucky.

After the police left, I dealt with the part you never see on TV. Remember that broken door window? Remember the fact that it was January? Yeah. Not only was I left with a room full of broken glass to sweep up, but I also had to call around the neighborhood, now about ten o’clock at night, to find someone with a plank of wood to plug up this hole blowing freezing air into the place. Spoilers: In the end, the eventual cost of replacing that door was the greatest cost involved in the robbery.

Speaking of eventually, it was hours later, when I finally was calmed down enough to try to get some sleep, that I discovered that my usual “bed reading” was interrupted by my ipad and charger mysteriously missing. Right. One more thing stolen, and now I’d have to go down to the police tomorrow morning to report that gone, too.

The following morning I seriously considered developing debilitating social anxiety and never leaving my house again. In my head, it made perfect sense that this was not a mere break-in, but a prelude to a greater robbery: last night was just a “scout”, and today they’d be back with a truck, and I’d get home to find my home completely vacant of all but a few errant Transformers. With this fear at the forefront of my mind, I decided to at least canvas my property in the morning sun and attempt to discover any likely “entry points” that weren’t already double locked. Also, any and all rocks were to be tossed over to my neighbor’s yard. Rocks are the enemy.

I didn’t find many rocks, but in the shade around the side of my house, I did find three items:

  1. My ipad
  2. My ipad’s charger
  3. A key to a local motel room, with the room number right on the keychain

I’m no Batman, but I believe this is what people in the biz refer to as a “clue”.

I beat feet over to the local police department, explained what I had found, and dropped off the evidence. Using every ounce of restraint in my body, I successfully did not berate the officers on duty for somehow missing my bright red ipad and this similarly bright cyan keychain during their search of my perimeter the previous night. Confronting a detective with his subpar detecting skills never helped anybody.

Fast forward a few days, and the police had interrogated the person staying at that motel room. It was relayed to me by the investigating officer that Master Thief’s alibi was based predominantly on the concept that, second-hand quote, “I couldn’t have robbed the house, I was drunk.” Airtight, that defense. Other relevant data: Lupin the Third was confirmed to have been purchasing a pizza at a restaurant a block from my home that very night, and claimed the only reason his key was found against my home (with random stolen property) was that he was just walking through the neighborhood, and it was simply a coincidence that it blew into the yard of a house that was, just that night, robbed. See? It all makes perfect sense.

My money, obviously, was not recovered, as I’m sure it was spent quickly anyway (on pizza, for a start). But it was a tremendous weight off my shoulders that the perpetrator had been found. This was not some career burglar who would return for my valuables (re: copy of Mega Man Legends 2), no, this was just some drunk who got lucky and saw a dark, “abandoned” house while waiting for a pizza order. This wasn’t Carmen Sandiego, this was barely even The Looter. Just some guy.

And when I really think about it, that scares me most of all.

As obliquely referenced earlier, I was fairly terrified when this first happened. Even after the news that this was all committed by Willy the Whino, I still shelled out for a deluxe security system, complete with the capability of working without power and enough cameras to turn my life into a very boring reality show (“Oh, what’s on the Goggle Bob stream tonight?” “He’s masturbating again.” “Really? He was just…” “Yes. Can we please watch something else?”). I also purchased some other security measures, so, while I probably have about the same amount of cash in-house as before the robbery, now I have to summon Gizmo Duck and recite a few lines of Scandinavian poetry while we both turn sacred keys to access it. I no longer disparage ancients who seal their unspeakable evils behind twelve baubles hidden all over the world, as I understand where they’re coming from. My security system is unlikely to ever truly be used, but it helps me sleep at night, which is really what I wanted most.

I did not purchase a gun.

As one may expect, I’ve reviewed the robbery a thousand times in my head: what could be done, what I could have done to prevent, and what could have been different if my own timing was different. As mentioned, it was something of a fluke that I was gone that long at all that evening, so, on a “normal” night, I likely would have come home while the robbery was happening. Given everything I know now, it’s very likely Lush Cole would have simply hightailed it out of there (and, if you consider how he dropped my [and his] stuff, it’s possible that actually did happen), and I wouldn’t have “met” my robber regardless. In a weird way, that seems ideal.

And then I consider what would have happened if I had a gun.

Two outcomes continually come to mind.

One, if this all went down exactly as before, but I already owned a gun… well, I assume then my burglar would have a gun. Reminder, my one and only lockbox was broken open during the robbery. If there had been a gun in there (and, given my disposition, that would have likely been where I’d keep a gun), it would have ceased to be my gun the minute that box was opened. Then we’ve got a drunk burglar with a gun, and that can’t be good for anybody, least of all the person that is potentially coming home to Agent Armed and Nauseous.

Then there’s the option that I came home, found my home being robbed, and grabbed my gun. I’m not going to mince words here: I would have shot him. Even just living through the aftermath of a break-in is chilling: that constant feeling that someone has been here, uninvited, doing whatever they want without reproach, and any time you’re not there? They could do it again. I can’t even imagine (and believe me, I’ve tried) what it would be like to find some stranger traipsing around like they own the place. I’m the kind of person that gets shortchanged on a random dinner check and quietly plots vengeance for the next week. I still remember a time when I was in grade school and, when Mortal Kombat 3 locked up, the arcade manager “refunded” my game by giving me a free play on the vastly inferior (in my mind) Killer Instinct. One day I’ll get payback, Arcade Manager who probably was only working part time at an arcade that is now no longer in business! It’s completely irrational, and a part of me is fully aware of that, tempering me against seeking petty retribution; but that rational part of my brain is very quiet in any high adrenaline situation, when the fires of revenge burn white hot.

So, yes, if I had a gun, and found someone breaking into my home, I’d shoot him. I’d shoot him until he was dead.

I would have killed a man over a couple hundred dollars and an ipad.

It, legally, would have been justified.

I like to believe life is worth more than that.

I support restrictive gun legislation.