Posts Tagged “in-the-news”

Photos From Chinqua Penn

Published on April 28, 2012

Way back in August of last year, my family and I visited Chinqua Penn plantation, located in Rockingham county, North Carolina. I forgot to post the pictures from that trip, but I’ve finally gotten around to it. This location was an incredible place to visit. Sadly, the house and grounds are now closed to visitors. This past week, the entire contents of the house and grounds were auctioned due to bankruptcy (netting over $3.4 million). It seems that the owner misappropriated money from the companies he owns, and faces several criminal charges, including unlawful cigarette trafficking charges in Mississippi. He will likely face time in prison, and is expected to plead guilty in May. You can learn more on the background of this unfolding story at the Greensboro News and Record.

How Adobe Can Shift Apple

Published on April 10, 2010

There has been quite a bit of news recently on the escalating war of words between Adobe and Apple. For the uninformed, Apple has essentially said “no Flash, ever” for either the iPhone or iPad, and Adobe has been pretty upset (rightfully so, in my opinion). Adobe employees have publicly denounced Apple, and Apple has fired back. It’s all been a sort of “playground dispute” so far.

Let me first say that I don’t love either company; they both have pretty serious failings in my eyes. But, in the end, I despise Adobe much less than I do Apple, so I’d love to see Adobe come out on top if at all possible. It occurred to me just the other day how Adobe could “get back” at Apple for this latest Flash debacle.

Simply put: Adobe should drop all OS X support for all of their future products. “If your OS won’t support our products, our products won’t support your OS.” Just think about it: all of the artsy folks in the world who use Adobe products use them on Apple branded computers. Cutting them off might seriously impact Apple’s new OS sales (and, admittedly, would probably hurt Adobe’s bottom line, at least in the short term). But this seems like serious leverage to me. Granted, Apple’s main revenue stream these days comes via the iPhone, but OS sales are still a vital piece of their puzzle. Putting the squeeze on a big vein like that might make Apple change its mind.

As this bickering continues, I can only hope that Android continues to grab market share. Could the iPhone vs. Android war turn into the Apple vs. IBM war from the 1980s? I can only hope so…

Credit Cards in America

Published on March 2, 2010

On February 22, several new laws went into effect in the United States in the attempts to protect consumers from credit card companies. Included among these laws is a rule that credit card statements must include information on how long it will take to pay off the balance when paying the minimum amount each month. I’ve heard a great deal of talk on the radio about this particular change, mostly to the effect that it should help wake people up to the fact that minimum payments aren’t a great idea, at least from the consumer’s point of view; the credit card companies love this scenario.

That got me thinking about credit cards in general here in the United States. According to, the average credit card debt for American households in 2008 was $10,769 (for households with a credit card); almost $11,000! It boggles my mind that there are people out there with a running balance that high. My credit card debt is $0, which means someone out there has a debt of nearly $22,000! How does that even happen?

Most people must live well above their means, which makes no sense to me at all. Maybe that’s because I’ve been pretty tight with my money all my life. I remember saving up chore money to buy my first Nintendo system. Every video game purchase was a result of hard work and scrimping and saving on my part. As a kid, I literally kept paper ledgers tracking how much money I was taking in versus how much was going out. Saving just came naturally to me. I paid for every vehicle I’ve ever owned, I paid for my college education, and I graduated debt free (or nearly so; I had about $1000 in student loans which I immediately paid off once I got a full time job). I’m what the credit card industry calls a “deadbeat.” I pay my bill on time, in full, every month. How can I possibly do that? By staying within my means!

I essentially treat my credit card like a debit card: I know how much money I have in my bank account, so I know not to spend more than that. It’s not that hard! Online money management tools like only make that process easier. Month to month, I can track where my money is going, and how I’m doing overall.

I’m not sure what the answer to America’s credit card debt problem is. At the very least, money management should be taught in school. Growing up, I had plenty of friends who got into trouble with money by purchasing things well outside of what they were capable of. The sad thing is that money management isn’t that hard; it simply takes a little bit of self control. Which is something most Americans apparently just don’t seem to have.

The News That People Read

Published on January 7, 2010

For better or worse, my online news site of choice is Last year, when they rolled out their new look, they also introduced a feature (which is still in “beta”) called NewsPulse. It’s essentially a look at what stories are being viewed most by site visitors during a given time period. For quite some time now, I’ve found the feature amusing, so I try to check it every once in a while. The most popular stories (over a longer period of time) typically fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Celebrity stories
  2. Stories involving sex
  3. “Big News” stories

In general, the popularity of any given story follows the order above. Celebrity news, especially celebrity death stories, seem to be very popular. The recent death of Casey Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress, was particularly popular because it fit both of the first two categories: she was a ‘celebrity’ and very openly gay.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at statistics like this. Google’s year-end zeitgeist is equally as enjoyable to peruse (though, it’s obvious that it’s filtered to be family friendly). This kind of data paints an interesting picture into our culture’s interests.

Flying is For the Birds

Published on December 28, 2009

After two separate incidents aboard inbound flights to Detroit, airports have stepped up security (again) for passengers. Gizmodo has posted a couple of articles on the new restrictions being seen at various places: The Unofficial Guide to Flying After the Underwear Bomb and Leaked: Homeland Security’s Post Underwear Bomb Airplane Rules. These rules are ridiculous. Passengers have to sit with nothing in their lap for the last hour of a flight, the flight crew cannot make announcements during the last hour, and in-flight services, such as live television, phone access, and wifi, are all to be disabled for the entire flight. This, along with additional baggage charges, is why I no longer fly, nor plan on doing so at any time in the near future. There’s no doubt that airplanes are terrific inventions, but these policies make this form of travel ridiculous.

What’s next? We all have to sit quietly, with our hands at our side, and our eyes closed for the whole flight? Will bathroom breaks be prohibited? Will people who need medication aboard a flight be denied that, because there’s a potential risk?

Let’s just face the facts: with rules like this, the terrorists have already won.

Buying Search Results

Published on November 24, 2009

It is being reported that Microsoft is trying to pay News Corp. to “de-index” their search results from Google. Rupert Murdoch (billionaire tyrant) has hinted that he’d like to prevent Google from spidering the websites for the companies that News Corp. controls. Ironically enough, what he wants can be done today for free using the appropriate rules in robots.txt.

If this report is true, it sure seems like a desperate attempt to gain search engine market share by Microsoft. What might really happen if this deal goes through? I’ve got to believe that viewership at the various sites would drop considerably. “The masses” know how to use Google to find stuff. If the stuff they’re looking for disappears, will they be willing (or knowledgeable enough) to use Bing to find it? I’m not sure that’s the case. Should this scenario play out, I can see things going one of two ways: either Microsoft wins and gains market share, or both Microsoft and News Corp. lose big time.

Gizmodo has a good take on this situation, claiming simply that, in the end, we’ll all lose. This will definitely be an interesting thing to watch in the coming months.

Fun With Time

Published on November 17, 2009

Time is a bother when programming. Doing time calculations is always way more complicated than it may seem, especially when your calculations have to go out into the distant future. Having been bitten by time related bugs in the past, I can only smile and nod in understanding when I read that the camera auto-focus bug in the Motorola Droid is due to an unfortunate time calculation. Why they use a date stamp in their auto-focus routine is beyond my understanding, but thanks to the wonders of rounding, auto focus will toggle between working correctly and not working correctly every 24.5 days. Terrific!

Time is making fools of us again. ~J. K. Rowling

Bottom of the Barrel

Published on November 7, 2009

In a recent study, the Pentagon has found that nearly 75 percent of potential military recruits ages 17 to 24 in the United States are unfit to serve due to obesity, lack of a high school diploma, or serious criminal history. This is mildly surprising to me, only in that the figure is so high. The US military has had recruitment problems for years now, so I was already aware that they are willing to hire some pretty shady and dangerous people.

What happened in Fort Hood a few days ago is very sad, and I certainly can’t pigeonhole the shooter into the demographic mentioned by this study. However, when you’re willing to hire criminals, you’re bound to get burned at one point or another. A report released in July of this year showed that major crimes have been on the rise at all military bases since 2003. In addition, arrests among soldiers for murder, arson, and rape rose sharply between 2007 and 2008.

I don’t know what the solution to these violence problems is, but I really feel like we’re straining the folks in the military too much. Having to serve multiple tours year after year is bound to make even the sanest people among them break down. The fact that criminals are let in only makes things worse in the long run. Hopefully someone will come up with a clever solution to this issue. Otherwise, our country is in for a rude awakening when the supply of competent recruits dries up.

Preventing Pirate Attacks

Published on April 13, 2009

It was great news to hear that captain Richard Phillips was rescued yesterday. I’m amazed that snipers could hit someone on a boat, from another boat, at a distance of nearly 100 feet.

As a result of this hostage situation, there has been a lot of news about pirate attacks around Somalia. It’s clearly a big business for these people, seeing as their country is essentially a nonexistent entity. The problem is that these pirates have yet to be punished for their actions. 100% of their ransom attempts (up until now) have been carried through. In other words, they always win.

The other day, it occurred to me how we can solve this problem. All we need is a throwback to the days of World War 2. It’s fairly apparent that these pirates have little naval power. They aren’t heavily armed, they attack in small boats, and they haven’t (yet) appeared in large numbers. As a direct result, this is a perfect opportunity to employ the use of the convoy system.

All we need to do is establish a perimeter around the problem area. If you want to go inside this perimeter, even if you’re just passing through, you have to be a part of a convoy. Multiple convoys would leave daily, protected by the various naval ships that are already patrolling the area. This would make attacks much harder, much less infrequent, and would (I claim) put a large stop on the activity going on.

Circuit City Closing

Published on January 16, 2009

It seems that Circuit City is closing for good. Deep down, does anyone care? Part of me does, and part of me doesn’t. I’ve been to Circuit City probably twice in my life; both times were to pick up games that Best Buy didn’t have at the time. Since that time, I’ve come to hate stores like that (hence the part of me that doesn’t care). At the same time, with Circuit City exiting the market, the market for certain things becomes that much smaller. That bothers me, especially since the competition is so lame. What do you think? Will you miss Circuit City?

Damon Weaver: Reporting Superstar

Published on October 26, 2008

Regardless of your political leanings, you’re bound to like this video of 5th grader Damon Weaver interviewing Senator Joe Biden. Damon is funny, adorable, and does an excellent job of interviewing the people he meets. It’s great to see kids like this doing something positive.

David Blaine: Idiot Extraordinaire

Published on September 23, 2008

Does anyone even care about this guy anymore? His latest stunt, in which he’ll be upside down for 60 hours, might leave him blind. It’s sad to see him have to resort to stunts like this to get attention. But I guess that’s the way of things, seeing as magic lost its charm after all of those Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed specials.

At least he’s easy to make fun of. There are some really great David Blaine parodies on YouTube, all of which I have linked below. They really nail his demeanor and the jokes are hilarious. Mind the salty language, however. Each video is about 5 minutes long, so make sure you have some time to watch them.

One Bad Mutha

Published on August 12, 2008

I was saddened to hear that music legend Isaac Hayes died on Sunday. He was an incredible composer and performer, and his additions to the music world will be greatly missed. Of his many works, my personal favorite (and, in my opinion, his best) is the soundtrack to the classic 1971 film Shaft. I highly recommend picking it up; it’s top quality stuff, especially if you’re a jazz and soul fan. While you’re at it, pick up the film too; I consider it one of my top ten favorite movies.

Death of the Newspaper

Published on June 25, 2008

It’s no surprise that the internet, along with 24-hour news channels, are killing off newspapers as a whole. But it seems as if the end of newsprint is nearer than expected. Earlier this month McClatchy Company, the group responsible for publishing our local Raleigh News & Observer, slashed over 10% of its workforce. This cut leads to the inevitable: less news in the newspaper.

When I read the newspaper, I mainly look at the local news section, the business section, and the comics (the most important part). The News & Observer will be merging the business section with the local news section, cutting coverage in both sections in the process. Happily, the comics section is (for now) being left alone. But these changes are leaving less for me to look forward to. I can only see this change as a snowball effect. Provide readers with less content and they’ll leave. Have readers leave, and then cut back even more as a result, causing yet more readers to leave.

More Proof That People Are Stupid

Published on April 10, 2008

I ran across a story at BBC News (via Digg) that is just plain depressing. It seems that Knut the polar bear killed 10 live carp in front of zoo visitors. The seemingly natural act has caused some controversy, with critics saying that the fish shouldn’t have been there in the first place. German media claims that the fish were there to clean up algae, and they quickly point out that we are talking about a polar bear, the most carnivorous bear species in the world.

Won’t someone think of the children?!?

More Proof That CAPTCHAs Don’t Work

Published on February 27, 2008

As if we needed any more proof that CAPTCHAs don’t always work, it seems that spammers have now successfully cracked the GMail CAPTCHA. A one-in-five success rate is being reported, and it appears that there are multiple bot-nets taking a tag-team approach in hacking the sign up process. This is particularly dangerous, since Google’s domains are highly unlikely to be blocked by any website or ISP.

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is (if I did I’d be rich), but hopefully Google will figure out a way to prevent this kind of nefarious activity from continuing to happen.

RoadRunner Redirects Domain Typos

Published on February 26, 2008

Slashdot is running a story on RoadRunner intercepting domain typos. My dad noticed this ‘feature’ a few weeks ago, and opted out via their preferences page. In addition to the Slashdot story, Ryan Govostes has an interesting article (written back in December) on the security holes lurking in this opt-out program. According to his post, one could wreak all kinds of havoc with TWC’s poorly written page, enabling or disabling the service for essentially all RoadRunner customers. SQL injections also appear to be a possible line of exploits.

Time-Warner Gets Grabby

Published on February 5, 2008

Slashdot is running a story on how Time-Warner is considering moving to a per-gigabyte service fee. According to them, 5 percent of their customers use over 50 percent of the network. So, because of these few “bad apples,” they’ll make everyone pay more. Steven Levy of the Washington Post has an interesting theory that Time-Warner is trying to hobble movie rentals via iTunes (trying to keep their pay-per-view stuff alive in the process).

I hope above anything else that this ‘idea’ of theirs never sees the light of day. Capping folks at 5-gigabytes (which is their current idea … can you believe that?) is incredibly poor judgment. This kind of thing will single-handedly destroy the online viewing capabilities of Netflix, it will ruin online gaming, and it will make MSDN subscriptions irrelevant.

And that might just be Time-Warner’s ultimate goal. Let’s hope they fail in every way possible.

Sun Purchases MySQL

Published on January 17, 2008

It seems as if Sun Microsystems has purchased MySQL. I don’t fully understand the motivation behind this purchase, but Sun must have some plan; otherwise they wouldn’t have paid one billion dollars for the company. In my opinion, Sun doesn’t have the greatest track record in software, so it should be interesting to see what happens as a result of this change. According to the official MySQL post:

Will MySQL’s support for other programming languages and operating systems now be given less attention? Absolutely not. MySQL is still being managed by the same people, and the charter is still the same.

We can only hope.

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