Back to school for me…

Well, I’m back to school again. It’s been a rough road.

I spent 6 years at Northwestern University in Chicago and was within 7 classes of graduating. I had to move out of the area and was unable to finish this degree.

We moved to Toledo Ohio. Coming from Northwestern, I was reluctant to finish my degree at University of Toledo. It just seemed like such a letdown. So I procrastinated for a while. We moved back to the Chicago area and I was hopeful to finish my degree, but we moved back to Toledo again within 6 months and I never got the chance. Eventually, upon our return to Toledo, I signed up and started taking classes at UT. I realized that, although University of Toledo wasn’t as prestigious as Northwestern, it was as good as it was going to get under the circumstances. I think I got two classes done and then we moved again. Uhhgg!!

We moved to Dayton Ohio and, although I knew I needed to get back into school, I didn’t know how to proceed. Every time I enroll in a program, we transfer out and I lose tons of credit. After stewing over this for some time, I decided that an online degree was the best solution under the circumstances. It’s quite a departure from the Northwestern degree I originally pursued all those years ago, but right now it seems that this is the only way I’m going to be able to get this degree done.

To make a long story short (I know, too late for that, right?), I settled on Capella University and began the enrollment process. My first class starts next week. I’m still apprehensive about online undergraduate degree programs. I think there’s much to be said for brick and mortar universities. Face time with instructors and fellow students is important, both for academic and social reasons. However, when balanced against the alternative of not getting my degree at all, it doesn’t seem like so bad an option.

Well, more on this topic later.


Mac Switching

Many people wonder what it would be like to switch to a Macintosh.  I recently made this switch.  I’ve been using Windows machines since Version 3.0 back in 1991.  It’s been 15 years and it’s all I’ve known.  Now I’m a big fan of the Mac OS and can’t believe I waited so long to switch.

Anyway, here’s a link to  a webpage where a guy talks about switching.  It’s pretty interesting.

It’s a no-brainer to me.  I just need a macbook now so I can take it on the road.

Is the MP3 history?

This is nuts. So Lucent sits around and waits until the MP3 becomes the defacto standard and then decides to start sueing people for its use? Read this Wired News article for more detail.
This could be a headache for people with large music libraries. I have 3,000 tracks and I know some who have tens of thousands. If we suddenly lose support for this, it’s going to be a mess.

I know Microsoft has just had a judgement made against them for something like $1.5 billion, but I think someone should develop a cheap bulk transcoder so that we can all convert our music to some open standard like the Ogg Vorbis format and leave these companies high and dry. They can take their marbles and go home. MP3 is a crappy format by today’s standards anyway.

Vulture Funds

I’d never heard of vulture funds until last week. I was listening to Democracy Now! when they discussed Vulture Funds and how some “investment firms” are robbing the poorest nations on the planet.

Here’s a scenario. I may be a little off on my details, but this should get the point across.

Zambia, a country in Africa, is extremely poor and is in desperate need of debt relief. Zambia borrowed $15 million from Romania, but has since gone completely broke and is unable to pay their debt to Romania. Zambia contacts Romania and works out an arrangement whereby if Zambia agrees to pay Romania $3 million, Romania will write off the $15 million debt.

However, before Zambia and Romania can close the deal, a company like Debt Advisory International sweeps in, buys the debt from Romania for $3 million and then sues Zambia for the entire debt, plus interest. The total suit is now for something like $42 million, nearly three times the original principle amount of the loan. For a country that couldn’t afford to repay the original debt of $15 million, this is just devastating.

This ‘fleecing’ by Debt Advisory international, run by Michael Francis Sheehan is but one example. There are very similar examples of a billionaire named Paul Singer pulling the same crap on the likes of Peru and Congo.

I don’t know all the details, but apparently, President Bush has the constitutional power to stop this from happening, but has apparently decided not to intercede. The companies are somehow tied to the White House in the way of campaign finance. Here’s how that works…

Bush gives these poor countries debt relief in the form of forgiven debt. However, rather than allowing countries like Congo or Zambia to benefit from this relief which has come at the cost of the American Taxpayer, he simply turns a blind eye to the inner workings of these vulture funds. The vulture funds, in turn, donate millions toward campaign finance. The losers: the countries to whom we offer these benefits, plus interest; and the US taxpayer. After all, where do you think all the relief funds are coming from in the first place?

A non-profit debt relief and economic justice group called Jubilee USA is fighting to stop these vulture funds from destroying the already precarious financial situations of these debtor nations.

If you’d like more information on this topic, please check out the segment on Democracy Now! which discusses this topic. Also, visit the site of Jubilee USA for more information regarding what they’re doing to combat this injustice.

The Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks are a Country music band and they were pretty popular. However, a number of years ago, in fact, just before the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, they made the mistake of expressing their views at their concert. I don’t have the exact quote, but their lead singer, Natalie Maines, said something about being completely against the war and said she was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas.

Of course, I’m no lawyer, but as far as I know, the First Amendment gives her the right to say whatever the hell she wants. Whether you agree with her comment or not (I happen to agree), I think it’s clear that she should not be punished for saying what she said.

I don’t listen to country music, so I have no firsthand knowledge of this, but supposedly, the Dixie Chicks have been blacklisted from all (most) country music stations in the nation. People threw away the CDs, ran them (the CDs) over with tractors. There were even death threats.

As I mentioned, I don’t listen to country music, but in support of this band, I bought some of their music through iTunes. It’s the one way I know I can support them.

I happen to agree with the comments they made, but even if you don’t, I hope you’re at least pissed off at the way they were treated for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

A documentary was made of this entire event and I highly recommend you see it. It’s called “Shut Up and Sing”

What kind of blogger are you?

As I get more into this and start writing more, I try to pay attention to some of the style and formatting things that other people are doing. I’ve noticed a couple of things that have made me wonder what kind of blogger I am.

Some people like to be creative and write their own stuff. They may have some knowledge on a topic and will just pick a topic and share what they know or feel. They may cite a reference or two, but by and large, they generate everything on the fly.

One example of this style is a blog I found called “Don to Earth.” He recently got some attention because of a posting he made called “It Bothers Me That I Have To Go. ” He’s 93 years old, and It was quite and interesting perspective. Don likes to write things from the heart. He has decades of experience in a variety of areas and is eager to share it with others.

On the flipside, you have people who like to scour the ‘net and find things that they think are interesting. They will then make a post about this topic, usually linking to or quoting the article. It may be a Flickr image or a Youtube video, or just a news article. Then, they usually comment on the article or media item and inject their opinion about the topic. An example of this would be Dvorak Uncensored. John C. Dvorak is a columnist with PC Magazine and is involved in many of the podcasts that I receive frequently. You can read more about him here, but his style is to gather works that someone else has created and comment on it. He has a larger following than many other blogs, and he actually employs a staff of contributors to his blog, but the concept is the same.

Where do I fall into this mix? Probably somewhere in the middle, but leaning toward posting stuff that others have done. I get lots of stuff fed to me through RSS feeds, Digg, Technorati, and other sites. It’s a pretty simple matter for me to link to some content, take a position or expand on it in some way and post. I do, however, enjoy writing. I try to post other, more original stuff, like this post. It just takes a few more brain cells to accomplish.

As more people start to see this content and I get a feel for what people like to see, I may change the methods I use, or just do more of the same. On the other hand, if any change is going to mean that I can no longer do this at all, I’ll just do what works for me.

If anyone has an opinion, let me know.

Iranian FM: U.S. is incapable to launch attack against Iran

TEHRAN, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — Iranian Foreign Minister said on Saturday that the United States was in no position to launch military strike against the Islamic Republic, stressing that talks were the only choice to resolve the nuclear standoff.

You know, I sure wish the Foreign Minister hadn’t said that. Bush is going to launch an attack on Iran just so he can prove to the world that the FM was wrong whether it kills off half the military population in the process or not. It’s what my kids would do and I’d expect nothing more or less from Bush.

read more | digg story

Is Piracy good for the media companies?

I was browsing some content on Zudeo through my Azureus client and came across this video. It does an analysis of some of the economics of BitTorrent content sharing as compared with more traditional media distribution methods. It’s quite interesting. Click the image below to see the video. It’s a 60 minute presentation of about 325MB.