aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Google’s turn to the dark side
I have a ton of respect for all that the Google folks have done and aspire to do, and they can dress the decision up in whatever way makes them comfortable, but this is just wrong to the bone, a capitulation that is anti-everything the Net and the communications revolution is supposed to represent.
[C]ompanies do have to follow the laws of the countries they operate in. For those in the US and elsewhere to say Google shouldn’t follow Chinese laws is hypocritical if they are not forcefully demanding that Google not follow other laws.
To avoid this hypocrisy, I’d like everyone upset about the Google move in China to also start protesting that the governments of France and Germany should not require Google to remove Nazi or hate sites.
Good point. Me, I wonder what would Fareed Zakaria say? That’s because I completely buy into his political reforms follow economic reforms optimism for China. Freedom is coming; personal liberties are expanding; even if not on our American timetable and to our American liking.
Life is compromise. For today, I understand and accept Google’s move.
The West Wing season 8
Out with friends tonight, we talked about ways The West Wing might be back. A special. On pay TV. None of us proposed downloads. Andy Bowers is right on:
Writing in Slate last year, MIT media analyst Ivan Askwith suggested that dead or dying shows might find an afterlife on iTunes. I can think of no current TV show better placed to blaze this new distribution model than The West Wing.
His reasoning is good, go read it, but his numbers are good too:
The West Wing has about 8 million viewers per week. It costs about $6 million per episode. In other words, if every person who now watches the show paid $1 a week, TWW would more than pay for itself.
Obviously not all 8 million viewers could or would pay for the show. But let’s say a quarter of them would. That’s 2 million people paying $3 per episode (or maybe $4, throwing in a buck for Steve Jobs and the cable companies). The episodes could be viewed on a PPV channel, downloaded to a DVR, or slurped onto video iPods.
The same model could work for other quality shows that are always teetering ”on the bubble”-shows like Arrested Development and Scrubs (as well as departed critical darlings such as Freaks and Geeks and I’ll Fly Away).
This model would have been absurd a year ago. Now it’s completely possible, although admittedly improbable. In the near future, I guarantee it will be happening regularly. Once we realize that we can overrule the lowest-common-denominator decisions of network honchos with a few bucks a week, I think it’ll become a habit.
Quicken sunset policy
I’ve been a Quicken user since 1988. I’ve upgraded through a variety of company strategies, most annoyingly the “new and improved...add more features” bloatware phase that went on for years. When I read about the most recent back-to-basics, stripped-down-simple, offer-tailored-products phase, I thought it a great move and decided to upgrade right away. And that I’d buy some of the tailored products.
I should rethink.
Today, out of the blue, I got notice that if I am using an older version of Quicken it is subject to their Sunset Policies. Certain features will stop working. SUNSET POLICIES??? I missed it when it was covered last year in the Washington Post:
Users of the popular Quicken financial management program are facing a yearly ritual this April that many dread and none enjoy—a ritual that does not involve any 1040 forms.
It’s Intuit Inc.’s forced retirement of the online components of slightly dated versions of Quicken, which has long dominated the personal finance management-software market. [...]
Intuit calls this phase-out of older software its “sunset policy,” and nothing rankles some Intuit customers quite like it. This “sunsetting” means they will either have to start typing in all their financial data, from credit card bills to 401(k) statements, by hand, instead of simply downloading it into Quicken—or pay to upgrade to a new and unfamiliar version of the program.
“They haven’t offered any compelling reason for me to upgrade, so now they are just trying nasty stuff to try and make me upgrade,” said Dan Doernberg, a Charlottesville resident who has used Quicken and other Intuit products for 12 years. “They’re effectively breaking the old software; it’s not that they just aren’t supporting it anymore.”
My friends will remember that years and years ago I said that as we moved from an analogue to a digital world we would move to process over product; we’d subscribe instead of buy. I don’t have an inherent problem with that. But I want it to be made loud and clear.
When we buy a CD we are in fact buying a license to play the music contained on the CD in certain limited circumstances. That’s not made loud and clear. When buying Quicken software there’s no “Good through” date on the package. (I could find no published schedule and have long since thrown away the box. My guess is it can’t be found there.) By all that is right this date should be made clear or made illegal.
We won’t care because as the Intuit public relations man said, “most customers upgrade every other year anyway.” But we’re losing something here, and we’re hardly even noticing.
A new moral majority
A political science professor here who has a very different perspective than my own sees the emergence of a new moral majority. Would that this were what he had in mind:
All across the country, conservative evangelicals are re-evaluating what it means to be a Christian and their soul searching, evangelical leaders and scholars say, has the potential to fundamentally reorder the federal government’s priorities and trigger seismic shifts in the Republican and Democratic parties.
“Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy,” the National Association of Evangelicals declared in a manifesto of sorts called “An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.” With evangelicals accounting for a quarter of the electorate, it says, “Disengagement is not an option.”
But this isn’t your father’s Moral Majority.
The newly recognized wave of evangelical social activism remains committed to the sanctity of life, the preservation of marriage and protection of the family. But it is far more progressive socially than the Religious Right juggernaut that emerged as a conservative - and wholly Republican - political force a generation ago.
These evangelic activists believe that serving God also means acting on a “biblically balanced agenda” that would, among other things, erase poverty, trim tax cuts for the rich and protect the environment.
Somebody writes a version of this article every six months or so. When I worked for a progressive evangelical nonprofit, we used to make photocopies of them to include in our fundraisers as evidence that we weren’t just spinning our wheels. We weren’t, but we weren’t moving ahead that much either.
Reporters like Kemper aren’t wrong, exactly, there has been some progress and some movement away from the hardline partisanship of the religious right. But this progress has been glacially slow, and cherrypicking exceptions is not quite the same thing as reporting a trend.
I’m a hernia hero!
Any resemblance to Jerry Stahl’s Free James Frey! rant in defense of the post-truth memoir is purely coincidental. This is my story and I’m sticking to it:
But wait . . . I swear, I’m so excited I’m spotting. Which may have to do with the hernia operation I endured this morning with nothing but a can of Solarcaine and a half bottle of expired Anacin - which I actually CRUNCH, motherfucker - to take the edge off.
The whole hernia procedure is not, like, going to make me give up my sobriety. I’m going to HANG ON. Because my favorite writer did, and his bravery in the face of fantastic agony - some of it dental - gives me hope that I, too, can make it through. Without drugs and alcohol. And without having to sit around some church basement pretending to give a fuck what some Sanka-swilling, sugar-scarfing freak who wouldn’t knock over a 7-Eleven if his life depended on it has to say about God. Yeah thanks, pops, now why don’t you go home and change your pants for New Year’s? When you’re a really manly man, you can cure yourself. [...]
Hard to resist the fevered call of what the WWF might call EXTREME NONFICTION. Prose as real as wrestling!
Somehow, five minutes of poring over Frey’s gory-glorious bildungsroman makes me want to exorcise some demons from my own imagined past. Makes me crave a chance to mine my own trove of searing memories - the kind of memories only memoirists have, of really high-impact scenarios, where everything is realer than real. In a staccato style. That hurts. But in a real and life-changing way.
Don’t buy bottled water
Today’s story about the ADA’s concern that bottled water doesn’t have fluoride - so some companies are adding it - reminds me that I am 100% persuaded by Tom Stangage’s OpEd from almost exactly one year ago, Bad to the Last Drop.
Stangage begins with a taste test. Though hardly anyone can detect a difference between tap and bottled water, still we buy it. At a cost of 250 to 10,000 times tap water, sales are growing faster than for carbonated soft drinks. There are no health or nutritional benefits from drinking bottled water over tap water and “tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water.”
He notes that bottled water is actually bad for the environment, “It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, is then kept refrigerated before sale, and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.” But the clincher in his argument for me is that while we turn our noses up at tap water here, in much of the developing world people are literally sick and dying for lack of it:
More than 2.6 billion people, or more than 40 percent of the world’s population, lack basic sanitation, and more than one billion people lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of all illness in the world is due to water-borne diseases, and that at any given time, around half of the people in the developing world are suffering from diseases associated with inadequate water or sanitation, which kill around five million people a year.
Widespread illness also makes countries less productive, more dependent on outside aid, and less able to lift themselves out of poverty. One of the main reasons girls do not go to school in many parts of the developing world is that they have to spend so much time fetching water from distant wells.
Clean water could be provided to everyone on earth for an outlay of $1.7 billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, according to the International Water Management Institute. Improving sanitation, which is just as important, would cost a further $9.3 billion per year. This is less than a quarter of global annual spending on bottled water.
I have no objections to people drinking bottled water in the developing world; it is often the only safe supply. But it would surely be better if they had access to safe tap water instead. The logical response, for those of us in the developed world, is to stop spending money on bottled water and to give the money to water charities.
I don’t buy bottled water. If your tap water tastes good I urge you to think twice before buying too.