Ritual vs. Convenience

Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in how I interact and consume media in my life, and I’ve noticed I’m not alone. Let’s take.. music and records as an example.

I have access to Google Play Music, and I can listen to any song more or less ever recorded I want, pretty much everywhere I have a data connection. Even better, between Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play’s own algorithms, I can give it vague idea of what I’d like to listen to and get a complete playlist in one click.

I was one of those 80’s kids who made mixtapes and carried them around in my Walkman and in my car stereo. When Minidisc became a thing, I made the same mixtapes on Minidisc, and carried my goofy-ass Minidisc recorder pretty much everywhere. That escalated (quickly) to MP3s as data on writable CDs as soon as the first MP3 capable CD players came on the market. As the cloud has come into my life, I started uploading the more obscure stuff into Google Play, and made playlists of the stuff I used to make mixtapes of.

Recently I got one of those cheap-ass Crosley phonographs and I’ve been keeping an eye out at thrifts for old albums I might be interested in. Originally I was more interested in the novelty and nostalgia of having vinyl (a format I quite honestly avoided like the plague as a youngster, even though it was ubiquitous in my younger years) .. but yesterday I found myself doing something that I haven’t done in years.

I actually LISTENED to two albums. it wasn’t just background, it wasn’t an augment to what I was doing.. it WAS what I was doing. I found myself sitting at the turntable, doing nothing but actively listening to the music coming out of the speaker. And I was enjoying it. All the imperfections of the analog format, the pops and clicks, and having to turn the record over and place the stylus on the record… it was a complete experience.

While I could have searched for the same recordings and listened to digital copies on my smartphone, there was something .. real about handling the physical media.

I’m not saying it is the sort of thing I’d do every day, but as a ritual in and of itself it was a pleasant use of my time. Sitting down in front of the phonograph, gently pulling the record from its sleeve, gently removing as much dust as possible with a microfiber cloth, and putting this disk of plastic down in and of itself was a ritual.

And an enjoyable one at that.

The dreaded 2A discussion…

I’ve been pretty quiet on this subject for quite some time. As I’ve ranted about before, I was a “survivor” of the Las Vegas Massacre (danger-quotes because while I was close enough to be in danger I was not in the “target zone”) and I certainly have some opinions on this.

Right now, it is easier for someone to get a gun than a car. To legally drive a car one has to 1) get a driver’s license that requires a basic competency level and vision test, 2) obtain insurance for said car to a statutory minimum level (in CO it’s actually on the high side), 3) register the car, which at least here in CO requires proof of insurance, and 4) operate the car safely enough to not incur “points” on your driving record or maintain sobriety while driving.

None of these requirements exist for an “assault rifle”. All that’s required is a simple background check, and that process is even flawed to the point of being laughable. In addition, there’s no license requirement to purchase ammunition, no records kept of how much is being purchased and by whom, and the records of who purchased what gun are not stored in any electronically searchable database: it’s all on paper. Here in the 21st Century.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, as it is written. But those are the key words: AS IT IS WRITTEN.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The commas make things awkward. But, my interpretation is that regulation is specifically permitted. You can keep and bear arms. However, as I interpret that it should carry a requirement of you being part of “a well regulated militia”. That’s likely the way the Founding Fathers intended it. The United States wasn’t supposed to have a standing army, we were supposed to have militias sponsored by the individual States that came together in common defense.

Kind of how amateur radio is: one carries certain responsibilities and duties when one possesses an FCC-issued ham radio license. Is it strictly enforced? No, but the stakes are not as high for radio amateurs as it is for the amateur militia envisioned here. That said, it is not unheard of for the FCC to fine hams that were aware of an egregious violation of the Communications Act and did nothing to report it.

All that said, the whole Gun Control Debate is idiotic given the current state of affairs. Our government is supposed to be made up “of the people”, and that means we really shouldn’t have a standing army like we have. We should have “well regulated Militias” comprised of ordinary citizens, and if we can’t do that, maybe we need to rethink exactly why we spend hundreds of billions on “defense”. If we all had a good solid rifle, the training to use it in combat, and access to practice facilities I think a citizen army could make for a pretty strong force.

Until that time, I’m for gun control. No other nation handles guns the way we do, and no other country (at least in the first world) has the violence problems we have. Hell, I’m for disarming the police.

But to have any discussion about it requires the acknowledgement that we have drifted so far away from what was intended that to simply say “well, the Bill of Rights says this” without taking into account the whole “right to life” bit to me seems insane. Our system is broken with a standing army and a militarized professional police force. Let’s start there.

And I suspect that if our government was indeed “by the people, of the people, and for the people” we’d have a lot less of an argument about this, because “the government” would be your neighbors, not some professional legislator or a dumb Orange Cunt.

The Death of a Salesman

(This is a post from my Facebook page, in response to a friend posting and writing this article on Occupy.Com.  I duplicated it here for hysterical raisins.)

I may know the face on this story, and it’s truly a fucked up situation. And just think as Sears implodes all the jobs that are just simply “going away” and not being replaced.

What’s likely worse is entire small towns are collapsing because of this. The real “middle class” leaves to the bigger city, leaving behind the lower classes to survive in the ashes. I’ve kind of seen it myself over the years in Wyoming, where once thriving small towns are dying because the retail jobs dry up.

And just think: Walmart is now experimenting with “Scan and Go”, which will eliminate the jobs of even the cashiers there. Combine that with “automatons” stocking the shelves and … you can probably run the Walmart of the future with a dozen employees or less.

Meanwhile, to have a “modern” standard of living, the poor must have power, gas, and a communications utility. They must own and operate a car (and all the costs that entails) and they can’t just simply “not pay insurance” because now in some states you can get jail time for non-compliance. Then we added health insurance to those costs, and provided very little in no-cost solutions.. and in a few states, even that didn’t happen due to Uptighty Righties.

If those watching want to know how I turned from a Libertarian to a Commie, this is it in a nutshell: we can’t live anymore with no money, and there simply aren’t enough unskilled jobs to fill. Even many trades and professional labor is being marginalized and “outsourced to India.”

Workers of the world, unite.

#VegasStrong

It all started with one nutjob with an army’s worth of guns in a hotel suite.

In those moments there was panic amongst the crowds at the concert venue.  Those of us outdoors around the Mandalay Bay were completely confused.  Were those fireworks? Was that fake gunfire from some nearby filming or show?

The sound of fully automatic gunfire just kept coming.  Nobody knew whether to go inside or stay outside.  Even the police had no idea.  Some officers were running around with guns drawn, shotguns in their hand.  Initially all I could do was stand there at the Bus Lobby on the south side of the hotel.  Just five minutes previously I was walking down Las Vegas Blvd. across from the concert venue without a care in the world.

But that fear… that feeling of helplessness and chaos… I felt in those moments is not what I’m going to carry with me going forward.  Because what I saw in the minutes and hours that followed was nothing short of amazing.  What I saw was an entire major American city pull up its pants and start getting back to work and making sure everybody was safe.

A small cluster of us wound up outside the McDonald’s across the street from the Mandalay.  We were outside on the patio, still unsure of exactly what we just saw and experienced.  We were sharing information as we knew it.  We watched every police officer within 50 miles speed north on the Boulevard towards Tropicana Ave, which became the defacto incident center. And we stayed there until the police told us to start walking, and keep walking, south as far as we can go.

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Running CIS benchmarks tools is no substitute for knowing what you are doing…

Ran into an interesting item today at work.

My employer, as a matter of standard security practices, runs CIS “benchmarks” against potential machines.  Generally, I find the CIS benchmarks to be “just okay”, in that they tend to catch stupid shit and is a good bare minimum to start working from.

But it is a pretty sorry substitute for having a sysadmin who knows what the fuck they are doing, security wise.

I ran into this in action today.  Specifically, in CIS 5.2.15.  This little gem considers if your SSH server process is configured in such a way as it is not “so loose its brains fall out” by requiring a sensible configuration of the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file,  By sensible, the implications is that you don’t leave “root” and similar logins enabled over SSH.  Perfectly sensible.

But HOW it checks for compliance on this one is the gasser.  I’ll quote chapter and verse:

Think about that for a minute.

So you could have your file have a stupid line like “AllowUsers: root” and it would pass.

BRILLIANT.

 

 

Somebody kill Slashdot and put it out of misery.

Have you been to the venerable Slashdot lately?  I haven’t, and apparently I’ve missed out on a lot.

There was a time that Slashdot was the “go-to” site for somewhat intelligent conversation on geeky topics.  This was back in the early days of the Internet, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers.  I would start my day powering up my serial terminal connected to my Linux machine and use a text-based web browser to read it.  It was great back then.

All I have to say now is.. what. the. actual fuck.

Today this is what it looks like:

I’m not kidding.  This is what it looks like today.  Nothing but ads on the whole screen.

Slashdot used to be “news for nerds, stuff that matters.”  Today it’s “ads for nerds, nothing that matters.”

Sometimes a classic website can do worse than dying.  It can become a worthless platform just because of monitization and owners who stopped giving two fucks about the community they serve.  Goodbye, Slashdot.  May Reddit not stab you too hard.

It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.

-Nikola Tesla

Foot hurt…

So, yesterday I went to the emergency room again, this time because my foot is killing me. It hurts pretty bad to walk: so bad that I’m avoiding it at all costs right now.

They ran a bunch of tests, did an X-ray, and nothing stood out. They think it might be some kind of infection. Antibiotics were prescribed.

So, if I seem like I’m not too “up” on going places over the next week (or however long this takes to resolve) that’s why..

Live365 (“Adventures of Feedle’s INBOX!”)

In yesterday’s inbox, I find:

Hello Archturiat,

Earlier this year I purchased Live365 with the hopes of growing it into something great, but I’ll need help from stations like yours. The Live365 team has just started bringing stations back on the air and already have over 100 stations, but to realize our vision, we’re going to need many more.

Every day, we’re working on making Live365 a stronger platform for our stations to share their content. We’ve improved the previous streaming infrastructure to make streaming more reliable and allow our stations to use higher quality audio. We’ve built Auto DJ automation to make sure that if you don’t have something scheduled, your station doesn’t have dead air, and we’re always listening to feedback from our broadcasters to improve the Live365 experience. We’re in this together.

Join Us Today

I believe in the future of curated broadcast. Content chosen and scheduled by a real person. We know you have a powerful message to share and we want you to share it through Live365. We’d love to have you join us and if you’re not ready, let us know what we need to do to make that happen.

-Jon at Live365

Now, as I’m sure more than one of you know, I ran a station on Live365 for quite a while, almost from the beginnings of the platform.  I had heard through the grapevine that they had been resurrected from the dead sometime in the last six months, and I was happy to see the “new owner(s)” reaching out to the people that had accounts on the platform and try to get them back involved.

What I wasn’t happy about was the fact that the “new” Live365 has no pricing tier that’s even remotely approachable for someone broadcasting as a hobby, and that the cheapest package was around $60.  Now, it’s worth noting that tier is comparable to the “old” Live365’s $50 tier, and given the increase (and overall bullshit) involving the licensing situation that’s not surprising, really.

But this does mark a completely new direction for Live365, one that does not help the situation for small broadcasters at all.  Live365 used to be littered with small operations, some good some bad, but many were voices and programming you just didn’t hear anywhere else.  For better, or for worse.  Now, the barrier for entry is $60/month, minimum (not to mention the time and energy to create programming, even if all you are doing is uploading music to be spun out of Live365’s servers).

That’s steep for a broadcast operation (like The Voice of Mercury on Live365) that never had more than 5 TLH/day and usually no more than 3 or 4 concurrent listeners… even at its peak 6 years ago.  I could easily justify $20-25 a month, and the occasional music splurge, on that.  But $60 is JUST TOO DAMN HIGH.

Now, I’ve been talking with a few of you about biting the bullet and going ahead and paying for it anyway, and divvying up timeslots to others in exchange for helping out with the bill.  And I still want to do that, and it is on my list of things to do this summer.

But at the same time its hard to imagine that the “new” Live365 platform will even last long at that.  The pricing tier doesn’t seem fair or equitable for small-time broadcasters, many of whom (present company included) have been content to be “underground” and/or “closed-circuit” since Live365’s original demise.  It’s always been simply a “hobby” ever since my teenage days of NEEON-19 and the like.  Yes, it has been fun, but $60 buys admission to a decent amusement park for a day, and I’d rather be on a barf-coaster quite honestly.

But here we are.

So, who wants to (re-)start a radio station?