Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My Move Is Complete

Roxi and I got a little help from my brother Garrett and his girlfriend Nicole in unloading my moving truck yesterday afternoon. Back in Nashville, it took about two and a half hours to load the truck but in Lafayette in only took about an hour and a half to unload. It's certainly easier to get stuff out of that little box than into it! Of course I still have to unpack my boxes, but I've got plenty of time for that.

Now that I am back home, I will be focusing on getting a job while Roxi is finishing up her dissertation over the next year. But before I dive into a new job, we'll be taking a Caribbean cruise with our families! It will be my family's fourth cruise but is Roxi's family's first and I am so excited to get to share the fun! We set sail on Sunday so I'll keep doing what I've been doing prior to the move: counting down the days to some fun in the sun!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Back In Lafayette

After three days without internet, packing a truck and spending a day on the road, I am back in Lafayette. Roxi and I just got done with our drive from Nashville and we are exhausted! No time to rest though. We have to get this truck unloaded in the morning so we can enjoy a little on the Memorial Day weekend!!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Another Big Step In Fighting For Network Neutrality

In addition to the surprise news that the IRS will cease collection of the Federal Excise Tax, yesterday also brought a great step in the fight for Network Neutrality. The major telecommunications companies have been quietly lobbying Congress to write new legislation that would allow them to charge websites a fee in order to allow for faster connection through individual internet service providers. It would essentially allow big telecom companies to extort money from successful and popular websites in return for user access to those sites. Sites like Google, Amazon and eBay would have to pay millions of dollars or risk being relegated to slow connection speeds while "sponsored" competitors would enjoy smooth and easy accessibility.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a Net Neutrality bill that would keep such extortion illegal. This does not mean the fight is over. The bill now has to be debated by the full House and Senate before it can be passed, but a major hurdle has been crossed. So keep checking out the news and contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators. Internet commerce is too important to the future of our country and the world for it to be put into the hands of the telecommunications industry.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Little Tax Relief, But Still A Long Way To Go

In a very surprising story I read on TaxProf Blog, the IRS announced today that it will no longer collect the Federal Excise Tax on long distance for cell phones. You may recall that I wrote about the Federal Excise Tax here and here. For those who were unaware, the 3% tax was enacted in 1898 (you read that right: 1898) as a luxury tax to fund the Spanish-American War (you read that right the Spanish-American War).

After losing cases in five separate appeals courts, the government has decided to stop collecting the tax and issue a refund. The IRS will issue $15 billion dollars in tax refunds for taxes paid on services over the past three years. Taxpayers need to take no action now but rather complete a claim form to be submitted with 2006 income taxes in April of 2007.

I don't know about everyone else, but I've had a cell phone for more than three years so the limited refund doesn't seem quite right to me, but of course there is some kind of statute of limitations preventing older claims. In any event, this is a good start, but more frivolous taxes need to be abolished before the government will start spending our hard earned money wisely and stop wasting it on bridges and railroads to nowhere.

On A More Serious Note

Rape is a truly terrible act. There is not much worse than rape, but this article details something that might be. An unnamed fifteen year old girl reported to police that a Connecticut cab driver tried to rape her but she escaped. The cab driver was arrested and charged. The public assumed he was guilty, but the girl's story began to show some inconsistencies. Upon further investigation, it turns out the girl made up the story...TO GET OUT OF PAYING CAB FARE! But here's the worst part of all:

"The case is still under investigation, Moscato said, and the girl could be arrested herself for making a false report."

Could be arrested? The correct response is SHOULD be! I don't care if she is only fifteen. She caused this honest cabbie a lot of undue suffering and could have potentially ruined his life all because she wanted to get out of paying for a cab ride!?! Where is the National Organization of Women decrying this unnamed girl's actions as an affront to actual rape victims?

This is not the first case of a wholly false accusal. The article cites one other example specifically and many more have been in the news. The accused's name is dragged through the mud while the alleged victim's anonymity is strictly maintained. When the falsely accused is vindicated by evidence, the court of public opinion rarely apologizes and oftentimes, the accuser gets away without any real punishment. Some accusers have been charged, tried and convicted of false testimony and perjury, but many of them remain virtually anonymous throughout and certainly do not receive the stigma that the falsely accused is forced to deal with for the rest of his life.

Rape cannot be tolerated in a society, but to tolerate false accusations is a crime against the wrongfully accused and all those who have truly suffered from the abuse and violation of rape. The only way to stop false accusations is to no longer protect the anonymity of the accuser after the accused has been cleared. Rape is serious but being wrongfully accused of the crime has equally serious repercussions. Why shouldn't the crime of false accusation share in serious consequences as well?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How Awesome Is The Internet?

I know that the Internet was created first for military communication purposes and then was used as a way to network college campuses so that knowledge could be shared with people all over the world, but what really makes the Internet great is things like this: Super Mario Brothers on Ice featuring Jason Bateman, Alyssa Milano and the guy who played Mr. Belvedere(!).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Last Week In Nashville

As I mentioned last Sunday, I am leaving Nashville to be with Roxi in Louisiana. Exactly one week from now, I should either be in Lafayette or very close to it. To get prepared, I've spent several hours over the last week getting non-essential things boxed up for the move as well as visiting with friends in town before I leave. It's been nice catching up with the friends I've made here. Normally I'd be sad to leave such great people, but I am going to be joining my favorite person in the world, and for that, I couldn't be happier!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Die Hard 4: Die Hardester

The senseless sequels just keep coming, the latest of is the fourth installment of the Die Hard series. Bruce Willis made the announcement at the Cannes Film Festival. Apparently the movie might have come sooner, but the script had to be rewritten due to, I kid you not, " similarities with the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in the southern US last August." Yippie-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!

Asinine Quote of the Day

"Even the baby Jesus accepted gifts, and I don't think it corrupted him."

-- North Carolina State Representative Drew Saunders speaking about gifts from lobbyists

This doesn't look good...

While scanning through the articles on Fark.com this morning, I came across this piece from Canada's National Post. Apparently, the Iranian Parliament has passed a law requiring a person's religion to be identified by a badge on their clothes.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

The law isn't official yet but it sure reminds me of something another country tried about sixty-five years ago and I hope no one forgets how that turned out.

UPDATE: This article says the above article I quoted is BS.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What could be worse than unnecessary movie remakes?

Ghostbusters 3, that's what! In a story that I sincerely hope is a hoax, Dan Akroyd has written a script for the sequel that will star himself and Rick Moranis as the only returning original cast members. But what about the character of Dr. Peter Venkman you ask? He will be played by Ben Stiller. Prepare yourself for the formerly cool and sarcastic Peter Venkman to be a confused and insecure idiot because that's the only character Ben Stiller has played in the eight years since There's Something About Mary. What have we done to deserve this? And if you really think that this won't be terrible, think about Blues Brothers 2000 for a second and then softly cry yourself to sleep.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Summer Movie Remakes

Hollywood has been struggling for the past few years to compete with many, and often better, forms of entertainment. Remaking past successful movies is nothing new, but it is certainly becoming the crutch that big studios are using to employ the least amount of thought possible. I have blogged about the senselessness of remakes before, but a new thought occurred to me the other night when I saw previews for Poseidon and The Omen (two remakes based on very popular films from the '70s). For all of the brainless movie remakes out there, I am not familiar with anyone attempting to "remake" a classic novel. I know film and print are completely different media, but the fact remains that people who enjoy a good book re-read it just like people who enjoy a good movie watch it over and over. No one is clamoring for Stephen King to re-write War and Peace or Dan Brown to re-write A Tale of Two Cities. That would be stupid and neither author would ever entertain the idea. Meanwhile, lazy studio bosses are hiring equally lazy producers and directors to make absolute drivel. I'm not saying that stopping remakes will instantly make the quality of film better, but it would sure be a start.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Summer of the Gator

In what can only be described as truly shocking and very gruesome stories, three people in Florida have been killed in the past week by alligators. The first victim was a jogger who was attacked and killed by a nine and a half foot alligator last week. The second and third victims were found this weekend. All three incidents occured in different parts of Florida. As disturbing as these incidents are, I hope that it merely causes people to be more aware of their surroundings. I have a feeling that the more likely result will be a media frenzy dubbing this the "Summer of the Gator."

On The Move

I had some pretty lofty goals when I moved to Nashville, but in the two years that I have lived here, I have accomplished them all and I've even been fortunate enough to meet the woman that I want to share my life with. Roxi and I have been dating long distance for almost a year and a half, but starting in June, we will finally be living in the same place. I will be moving to Lafayette, LA at the end of May to be with Roxi while she finishes her PhD over the next year. Nashville has been wonderful and I have gotten to make some great friends that I will really miss, but it is time for me to move on and start on another chapter in my life. I'll be chronicling this new chapter here so please keep reading and commenting as always!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Indiana Jones Fans, Prepare To Be Disappointed

George Lucas is finally talking about the next Indiana Jones movie and it isn't pretty.

Contrary to how Hollywood usually hypes its blockbusters, the writer/producer says Indiana Jones' next adventure actually won't be any louder, bigger or faster than his last one. In fact, if Lucas gets his way (hint: he usually does), the Jones sequel will prize dialogue over decibels.

I already had pretty low expectations, but this tidbit has helped them slip lower. If the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy is any indicator, this is going to be a terrible movie that will besmirch the franchise worse than the Temple of Doom ever could. All of the actors in the prequels trilogy had great reputations and have delivered exceptional performances before and after the films, but the "dialogue" and "direction" that Lucas gave them was dreadful. The only thing that might save this production is for Lucas to take a hands off approach as producer. If history is any indicator, that will unfortunately not be the case.

Lucas also had some comments about the upcoming release of the original Star Wars Trilogy. He decided it would be a good idea to insult his loyal fans by sniping at their demand for an unedited version of the original Star Wars Trilogy.

"It's just the original versions, as they were," Lucas said. "We didn't do anything to it at all. But we're not sure how many people want that."

You might say quite a few, considering how many fans were angered by the digitized, expanded updates of episodes IV, V and VI. Lucas claims he's not re-releasing the originals to appease fans, but rather to bate them. "Now we'll find out whether they really wanted the original or whether they wanted the improved versions," he said. "It'll all come out in the end."

What an asshole.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Futurama Rumor Mill

This is only a rumor right now, but CNN says they have heard that Futurama might be added back into the fall schedule on Fox as they did with Family Guy last year. I would love it if Futurama came back in more than just movie form, but in this age of Internet rumor mongering, I will need see Philip J. Fry on TV before I'll believe it.

A Couple of Copywrite Lawsuits

Today a few decisions came out about copywrite lawsuits that are of interest to me as a fan of the Texas Aggies and the Beatles. In the case of the Aggies, the suit was brought against the Seattle Seahawks and their use of the "12th Man." A deal was reached today between Texas A&M and the Seahawks.

As past of the agreement, the Seahawks acknowledge Texas A&M's ownership rights of the trademark phrase. However, the NFL team may continue using it under license. Neither side admitted any fault or liability.

Admittedly, college football is as much about money as professional football, so this deal has "Dollar" Bill Byrne's fingerprints all over it. Regardless of the motivation I am still glad that the lawsuit was settled because A&M really does have history and the law on it's side. If you don't act to protect your trademark, why bother even registering it? A few more bucks for the university won't hurt either.

The second suit of interest is the one brought against Apple Computers by the Beatles' Apple Records label. The crux of this particular ruling deals with the use of the "Apple" logo.

Apple Corps contended that the computer company had broken a 1991 agreement in which each agreed not to enter into the other's field of business.

But Judge Edward Mann ruled that the logo was used in association with the store, not the music, and thus was not a breach.

Lawyers for U.S.-based Apple Computer had argued that it was conducting its business legally and that music lovers are smart enough to tell the difference between the logos.

Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a cartoon-like apple with a neat bite taken out.

So there you have it. Consumers aren't stupid and nobody buys an Apple Computer expecting to get a Beatles album. I'd go so far as to say that most people have probably never heard of Apple Records. But still a company has to at least work to protect it's trademark. However, the Beatles themselves have settled this trademark case before.

The 1991 agreement ended previous lengthy litigation over the logo.

Apple Computer told the court that it paid the Fab Four's company $26.5 million as part of the 1991 out-of-court settlement, and in return had received "a considerably expanded field of use."

But since Apple Computers is making so much money from the sale of iPods and mp3 downloads from iTunes, it would seem that the Beatles want to wet their beaks. Somehow I don't think we have heard the end of this dispute.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Free Da Vinci Code Advertising

As everyone knows, the movie version of The Da Vinci Code is coming out in less than two weeks and the controversy is raging. Predictably, the most recent attacks are coming from Vatican City. A top Cardinal is calling for more than a boycott this time though. He is calling for legal action. Is this guy getting a cut of the profits or something? Doesn't he know that making statements like this only works as free advertising for the movie? And what's the big deal anyway? If we're going to have movies like The Passion of the Christ, we're going to have movies like The Da Vinci Code. For every person that believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, there is someone else who sees it as just another work of fiction. And really isn't that what's great about freedom?

Friday, May 05, 2006

And the Crappiest City in America is....

Houston...at least as far as picking up after your dog is concerned. According to a survey, Houstonians are the worst at picking up their dogs' waste during walks. New Yorkers are the best at scooping poop proving that threats of tickets will get most people to pick up fresh dog crap.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Holy Grail for Star Wars Fans

Rumor has it on ComingSoon.net, that the original, un-altered, un-Special Additioned Star Wars trilogy will be released this fall for the first time on DVD. Casual Star Wars fans will say that the trilogy was already released twice on DVD, but they would be technically wrong. The original trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) that is currently available are not the original theatrical versions but rather the Special Addition versions that were released in 1997 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the first release of Star Wars. They include added special effects and very lame changes that George Lucas felt needed to be made just before their release on DVD.

There are several things that lead me to not believe these rumors, namely that Lucas himself said that the currently available versions of these movies are the definitive versions and that the original theatrical versions would never see the light of day. But he has been known to change his mind before. He also vowed not to release the new prequel movies on DVD until he could be sure that the format was piracy-safe. That lasted about a year and then he caved to overwhelming pressure to release the new movies shortly after they played in theaters. At first I also questioned the "limited time" availability of the movies, but then thought that it might be a ploy to get people to purchase them now and then again in HD-DVD format in a few years. Again, this is something that Lucas has already done. Prior to the release of the Special Edition, the original trilogy was re-released in 1995 on VHS under the claim that it would be the last time it would ever be released in that form. It ended up being true because two years later, the videos were released again but with the Special Addition changes.

I would love for this new rumor/story to be true mostly because I loved the movies as they were when I was a kid and have been a bit turned off by the pointless tinkering that Lucas keeps doing to these films. I have personally resisted purchasing the original trilogy DVDs that are currently available in the hopes that one day Lucas would come to his senses. I was also okay with that decision because I already own a complete version of the original theatrical trilogy in letterbox format on VHS. Granted, repeated viewings and time will deteriorate the tapes, so I sparingly watch them when I feel nostalgic or need to let someone enjoy the pure quality of the originals. I also don't buy that many DVDs anymore, but there are a few sets that I would spend my money on and I can say that the original theatrical versions of Star Wars on DVD is one them.

UPDATE: The rumors are true! The theatrical versions of the original Star Wars trilogy will be released on DVD for a limited time from September 12 through December 31. I'm still not sure why there will be such a limited release, but the Digital Bits noted that 2007 will be the 30th Anniversary of the release of the first film, so we can probably expect some deluxe repackaged release. I was cautiously optimistic about this story this morning but now I am very glad that this one turned out to be more than just a rumor! After all, I am a childhood Star Wars fan who experienced the first film in utero (my mom was five months pregnant when my parents saw it).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Fat Police and the Death of Personal Responsibility

Stacy has written a couple of posts over the past few days about how much she hates all varieties of soda. I too am not a fan of soda in general. I used to drink Mountain Dew by the gallon when I was in high school and college, but I started drinking water somewhere in there and now when I go back to soda it's hard because it really burns my throat. I'll still have an occasional red cream soda when Roxi and I do some shopping at her neighborhood Piggly Wiggly or mix a little RC Cola with some whiskey when my friend Nate and I are hanging out, but most of the time I am an exclusive water and orange juice guy. That being said, I don't fault someone for drinking soda and I certainly don't think that people should be stripped of the right to decide between a water or a Coke. Sadly in another loss in the war for personal responsibility, many state legislatures are considering passing laws banning the sale of sodas in schools.

The Bill Clinton Foundation has brokered a deal with soda companies to stop the sales of sodas in elementary and middle schools while offering only diet soda alternatives in high schools. Now this may seem harmless on the surface because this just affects kids and many consumer advocates have taken it upon themselves to protect everyone else's kids whenever they get the chance. But I just don't like the precedent this sets. It is no secret that there is a large movement in this country trying to demonize the sale of fattening and high calorie foods to children. The problem I have with this is that they are not out to affect a cultural change through education but rather through legislation.

The problem with most advocacy groups is that they begin their crusade with truly noble intentions, but they are almost always victims of their own success. Once they achieve their prescribed goal they rarely disband but rather narrow their focus and soldier on. I fear that this will be the end result of the "food police" making decisions for everyone else's children. And for the "it doesn't effect me" people, my response is, "Not yet." This will work it's way into the adult population. I don't really think that it is a stretch to expect calls for restricting the sales of soda to minors, moving to banning sales of soda in the workplace and then finally outlawing soda sales altogether. Sure that seems ridiculous, but many of these groups want to tax soda so much, you won't want to consume it. And if you aren't a soda drinker, there is something you like to eat or drink that will be targeted eventually. The Fat Police are here and they are rabidly working to save us all from ourselves. A Fat Tax is coming; it's only a matter of time.

UPDATE: To respond to Katie's comment and clarify my feelings on sodas in school, I do not intend to imply that kids should necessarily have them, I am saying that it should be parents and not any city, state or federal entity that makes this type of child rearing decision. I know that children will not always follow their parents' rules, but it the responsibility of parents to set those rules and dole out punishment. The government should not be in the business of raising children other than in cases of child abuse. Of course some advocacy groups would argue that allowing your children to have sodas amounts to child abuse. That is debatable, but I am the product of parents who allowed me and my brothers to drink sodas and we turned out very healthy. The point is, how can any government honestly be able to know what is best for everyone's kids? It's asinine. Furthermore, they will not stop with child advocacy. It will eventually spill over into advocacy over adults lives. Give them and inch, and the government will take a mile. I don't want to give up any more inches let alone a whole mile.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Victory for the Music Consumer

It appears that Apple has made a deal with four of the major music companies to keep the price of song downloads at 99 cents. The record companies have been pushing to increase their profits from the downloads by forcing Apple to charge more per song on iTunes. This agreement should set an important precedent for digital music downloads. I just know that if the record companies get their way just once, they'll keep trying to take more and more without ever trying to improve the quality of their products. So not only is this a win for Apple but it a major victory for consumers of music.

Network Neutrality Update

For an issue that is as important as Network Neutrality, I am still not seeing any substantial coverage of it in the news. Thanks to grassroots movements, the word is starting to get out and according to the SaveTheInternet.com blog, some Congressmen are becoming fearful of the backlash that could arise from voting against Network Neutrality. Apparently not everyone in Congress is terribly worried though. Congressman Jim Cooper addressed my concern in the following letter.

May 1, 2006

Mr. John Raine
Nashville, Tennessee 37217

Dear Mr. Raine:

Thank you for writing to me to express your views on the equal access of content providers to Internet capacity, also known as "net neutrality".

As you know, Internet service providers have traditionally allowed their customers to access all websites and content available on the Internet, generally regardless of the amount of bandwidth these services require relative to others. Today, providers such as cable and telephone companies seek to expand the availability of video services over their networks, therefore many people worry that such services will restrict the amount of bandwidth available for other Internet services. Additionally, service providers may offer some content providers preferred access to customers' bandwidth for a fee, meaning that large Internet companies such as Yahoo or Google could have better access to customers' homes than smaller and newer

The Internet has thrived because it has embraced and enabled new innovative technologies. Many emerging Internet technologies require increasingly more bandwidth to deliver their value to consumers. At the same time, if Internet service providers do not find it economical to build faster and larger networks, bandwidth will not expand enough to keep up with consumers' need. As Congress examines this issue, I will study all of the data available and evaluate legislative approaches about how to encourage innovation and allow consumers to access the next-generation services they require.

Thank you for your time and for you advocacy on behalf of consumers. I look forward to hearing from you in the future regarding this and other issues.


Jim Cooper
Member of Congress

This doesn't sound like the response of someone who fears a backlash. I guess one could read this letter as a description of someone who is open minded and willing to hear both sides of the argument. However, one side of this argument is just plain wrong! In theory, charging sites with higher traffic a premium seems like a good idea to increase the infrastructure of the Internet. However, I just don't trust the telecommunications companies to use a new law this way. I would tend to think that they would more likely use it as a means to profit while the rest of us suffer or submit to their extortionary prices for access to the "fast lane."