Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Obama's Ace In The Hole

As Obama's approval rating continues to sink, things are looking better and better for whoever gets the Republican nomination in 2012.

In some head-to-head polls, some Republicans beat Obama, while others are within the margin of error, statistically tied with the president.

Things are looking good for Obama being a one-termer, right?

Well, not so fast.

Obama has an Ace in the Hole. And it just might be you.

You see, Obama and the Democrats are counting on you sitting this election out. Why would you do that? Because you aren't happy with the eventual GOP candidate.

Now, sure, it's about a year until the GOP convention. But the process to pick the candidate is already underway. In fact, Tim Pawlenty has already dropped out of the race.

The leading candidates, if you believe the polls, are Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul. And, then there's Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Thaddeus McCotter, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Buddy Roemer, and Gary Johnson.

Then there's about Fred Karger, Andy Martin, Tom Miller and Vern Weunsche.

Oh, and don't forget The Rent Is Too Damn High Guy, Jimmy McMillan.

And still maybe Sarah Palin and John Bolton.

Some of the candidates don't draw much attention. But some that do draw a lot of passion. Several of the Gary Johnson or Ron Paul (RONPAUL!!1!!!11!!!) supporters will not vote for anyone else NOMATTERWHAT!!!1!!

And others say there's no way they'd vote for someone like Newt Gingrich or Jon Huntsman. Or Sarah Palin.

Well, unless the Republicans nominate a committee to run in 2012, only one of these will be the nominee. And there will be some very unhappy Republicans and some very unhappy conservatives. And some unhappy libertarians. And some unhappy liberaltarians.

And that's Obama's Ace In The Hole: Republican-leaning voters feeling they have a bad hand.

Look at it like a poker game. Say, five-card stud. Sure, nobody plays that anymore, but it's one of the simplest to use as an analogy, so there you go.

After the cards are dealt, Obama is holding this hand:
Ace of Clubs
Jack of Clubs
Three of Hearts
Two of Diamonds
Hole Card

You have this hand:
Seven of Diamonds
Eight of Diamonds
Nine of Diamonds
Ten of Diamonds
And your hole card: 10 of Spades

You've got a pair of tens. Not a great hand, but potentially a winning hand. If Obama has an Ace in the hole -- or a Jack in the hole -- he wins. Anything else, and you win.

What Obama is counting on is you being unhappy with the GOP candidate and not showing up at the polls. That's his Ace in the Hole. Or Jack in the Hole.

Now, a lot of you are going to bitch, moan, and complain about whoever gets the nomination. Like I have several times in my life. But, I went out and voted for the guy, because the alternative was worse. And, each time, history has proven me right. That is, since I've been voting (1976) the Republican who won was better than the Democrat who lost. And the Republican who lost would have been better than the Democrat who won.

Don't be Obama's Ace in the Hole. Or Jack in the Hole.

Prevent that situation by working like the Dickens for your candidate. Then, whoever wins, work like the Dickens for that candidate, too.

Don't let a bunch of Ace-Holes ... or Jack-Holes ... mess up the next election, like they did in 2008.

Don't be an Ace-Hole.

Friday, August 26, 2011

We've become a nation of ... kittens (or some similar word)

Kittens.

They're cute and cuddly and make great subjects for funny videos on YouTube. Plus, they taste like chicken.

Okay, I don't know about that last part. But little kitties grow up to be mean old tomcats or pussycats.

Kittens, despite however cute they may be, are nothing little toms or little pussies.

And sometimes it seems like we're becoming a nation of kittens. And it's not cute.

For example, when I was in high school, back in the 1970s, high school teams would play football in the rain. On November 27, 1976, there was a game played in Albany where there was so much rain, one end of the field was unplayable. On one series, the official set the ball down for play, then walked away. The ball started to float off. The official stayed with the ball until the center approached from that point on.

Later in the game, a punted ball hit and didn't bounce. It never touched the ground. It hit the water and bobbed.

No, I'm not making any of this up. I was at that game, and it was wet and miserable. And fun.

This week, though, in southeast Georgia, several high school teams moved their football games from Friday night (tonight) to Thursday night (last night).

Why? Because there's a hurricane on track to hit North Carolina. And they don't want to play in nasty weather.

What a bunch of kittens.

Back on September 21, 1989, with Hurricane Hugo bearing down on the Georgia/South Carolina coast, Statesboro's Georgia Southern College (now University) hosted their first night game. It was windy and wet. Four inches of rain fell during the game. The rain was falling sideways. I was there, and it was absolutely fun.

Today, they wouldn't play that game. Because people are a bunch of kittens.

We have too many kittens. They're everywhere and making decisions for us.

We need to be able to play football in the rain.

Those kittens? They need to be spayed or neutered.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

iQuit

The world ended last night.

That's right. Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

It's not like Barack Obama resigned or anything. If that happened, Joe Biden would take over. That is, one incompetent would be replaced by another incompetent. So barely a blip would occur if Obama was gone.

But Steve Jobs? You know what this means, don't you? Your iPods will all quit working now. Go try yours. I'll wait.

See? A little sluggish, wasn't it. And, when you put the songs on shuffle, that one song you really don't like played, didn't it? Know why? Because Steve Jobs quit.

And, if you bought in to the hype and switched from Windows to a Mac, you're doomed. DOOMED!!

The next version of OS X won't be like the the last few. Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion? No more. The next one will be OS X LOLCAT. And, after that, OS X Snagglepuss.

That Apple TV you bought? Instead of streaming TV shows and movies from several studios, you'll only get Current TV. Steve Jobs was the only thing standing between you and Apple board member Al Gore. Now, you're screwed.

Your iPhone? It won't make calls. It'll be like you're on AT&T or something.

And your iPad? Angry Birds doesn't work any more.

Steve Jobs is no longer running Apple. He's been replaced by a guy who went to Auburn. Auburn!

In no time, Apple will be only the second-most valuable company in the world.

Yes, your life has ended. I'm sure George Bush is to blame. Or global warming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake!

There was a bunch of fear yesterday when the earthquake hit northern Virginia near Washington, D.C.

In fact, when Wall Street heard about the earthquake, the Dow rose over 300 points. Which says a lot about the economy. When there's a chance that something will stop Obama and the Democrats, the market goes up.

There were reports that the Washington Monument was tilting, but that was not true. Washington politicians, though, were found to be crooked, but it's too early to tell if the earthquake is to blame.

But the earthquake did do some isolated but terrible damage: it interrupted Obama on the golf course and made him miss a putt. Really.

So, despite early fears, the earthquake did little overall damage. Unlike Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress. Their damage is still being assessed.

Anyway, you don't normally hear about earthquakes in that region as happened yesterday. Most earthquakes are in Japan, California, or other places foreign to America. Why on earth (or under earth) did one occur where it did?

I dunno.

Some people -- mostly scientists -- will tell you that earthquakes are caused by the plates of the earth moving in different directions or at different speeds, building pressure, and suddenly releasing, but I think they're making it up as they go along. We need to find out what causes earthquakes, then stop them. Or use them to our advantage, like Gene Hackman tried to do in that Superman movie (the first one).

So, what causes earthquakes? Or, failing that, what caused yesterday's earthquake?

Here are the leading candidates:
  • Global warming causes them.
  • Global cooling.
  • Witches.
  • Maybe it's the Tea Party. They caused everything else that's wrong, so perhaps it's them that caused all the devastation yesterday.
  • George Bush.
  • More witches.
  • The Titans bowling. Or maybe that's thunder.
  • The Titans dropping their bowling ball.
Maybe it is the whole tectonic plates thing. Or maybe Teutonic plates. Probably so. I never did trust the Germans.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Republican strategy to beat Obama

The good news for Republicans recently has been that polls have shown that a generic Republican beats Obama. The bad news is that when "generic Republican" is replaced with an actual Republican, Obama wins.

Not any more.

Latest polling shows that some actual Republicans beat, tie, or are within the poll's margin of error, according to ABC News:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads Obama by a 48 percent to 46 percent margin, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry ties the president at 47 percent. Obama bests Ron Paul by a 47-45 divide and Michele Bachmann by 48-44 split. All results are within a 4-point margin of error.
What does this mean?

I dunno. Does anyone know what Americans' political thought processes are? I mean, a majority of voters actually elected Obama in 2008. So you can't depend on most American voters to do anything that makes sense. So I'm not sure we can make any sense out of this poll.

But I'm not going to let that stop me from trying.

Maybe this means that Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul (RONPAUL!!!1!!1!!!!), and Michele Bachmann are actually generic Republicans.

All this time, I thought Tim Pawlenty was. But, since T-PAW decided to drop out of the race, theres an opening for a generic Republican. And, it's being filled by fake conservative (but good-for-business) Mitt Romney, almost conservative (but plays one on TV) Rick Perry, speaks right when facts aren't involved (John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy, Elvis' birthday/death day) Michele Bachmann, or sh*t-house rat crazy Ron Paul (RONPAUL!!!1!!1!!!!).

What about the other Republicans? For example, my guy, Herman Cain?

They didn't ask. At least, when I read the full poll, I didn't see where they paired up Cain and Obama. But, among Republicans, Cain and Perry has the smallest "unfavorable/strongly unfavorable" totals. As for favorable, Cain and Romney came in second in "favorable/strongly favorable" to Rudy Guiliani, who's not running.

What all this means is that a lot of Republicans can beat Obama. Maybe even more than they poll.

This shows what the Republican strategy for 2012 will be: don't be Obama.

Which sort of screws it up for Huntsman, who worked for the guy. But maybe not. Remember Romneycare and Obamacare? Mostly a matter of scale. But Romney beats Obama. So, maybe not even Jon "Obama's a remarkable leader" Huntsman should be counted out.

Still, not being Obama looks like a winning strategy. Particularly since Obama appears to be still blaming Bush for everything.

"I'm not Obama" beats "I'm not Bush" hands down.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ready for some football -- Internet TV style

A while back, I cut the cable and went to Internet TV.

I'm using a Roku device for most of the content: Hulu Plus ($7.99/month) and Netflix streaming ($7.99/month) make up most of it. I've gone from around $60/month to around $16/month, kept most of my content, and picked up some more.

I'm also able to get some content from Amazon Instant Video. Yes, it adds to the cost, but the overall cost is still way less than cable.

Then, there's the Apple TV device that lets me watch iTunes content. Also, that increases the cost because of either rental of purchase of shows or movies, but still way less than cable.

And, there's the Windows Media Center device, a Dell ZINO HD that allows me to watch over-the-air TV (I added USB TV tuners to accomplish that). Since Windows Media Center also works as a DVR, I was able to replace my TiVo.

And, since it's a Windows 7 device, it runs Hulu Desktop, which lets me get the standard (free) Hulu content on my TV. Normally, you can only watch standard content (that is, content that's not part of Hulu Plus) in a browser. But, Hulu officially supports the Hulu Desktop client. And, since the Windows Media Center device is hooked to my TV, I'm able to watch all Hulu content on the TV.

That setup gets me just almost everything I was watching on cable, plus some other content. The things I'm missing, though, include ESPN.

There is one device that officially supports ESPN content on your TV: an Xbox 360. Now, I really don't give a rat's ass about playing games on an Xbox. To me, a game console is like having a cement block: I can say I got one, but I'm not going to do anything with it but let it sit there and take up space.

But, the ESPN3 channel that's part of Xbox Live Gold gets me the ESPN that I need for watching college football this fall.

So, I bought an Xbox 360. And I configured my TV remote to work it, so I don't have to use the game controller for anything.

Yes, that means my Internet TV setup now consists of: Roku, Apple TV, Windows Media Center, and Xbox 360 all running on my TV. And, yes, that's a lot of stuff. But running it all on one remote helps keep things simple.

I think I'm going to need some more time in the day just so I can watch all that TV. Starting with college football.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Droid Rage

The new Android operating system for year-old Verizon Droids was available for me today. It's not a new operating system, just new to me. And other Verizon users with a Droid X.

It's not that new fancy Honeycomb (Android 3.0) that everybody raves about and no one has seen. No, it's the 7-month-old Gingerbread (Android 2.3) that most newer devices run.

Well, it was finally available for me today. And, this morning, I downloaded it.

The whole idea of upgrading an operating system over a network can be scary. Because, if something goes wrong, you can't retry. Because without a working operating system, you don't have a working system. You have what's commonly called a "brick."

I ran the update, and everything seemed to go well. Until the last step, where the phone reboots. That's when the screen filled, went black, filled again, went black, then showed the top banner ... and nothing else.

Touch screen didn't work. Buttons didn't work. The only thing I could do was take the battery out, which is a reboot.

Then things repeated themselves.

I had a brick.

So, at lunch, it was off to the Verizon store.

Amanda was the young lady that assisted me. And, after two trips to the back, she came back out with a working phone. Same phone. But she had to do a hard reset. Which wipes everything.

So, I'm setting up my Droid. Again. But it's working.

So, what did we learn?

Well, here's what I want you to take away from it. If you're running Android 2.2 on your phone, and are ready to update to 3.3, wait until you have some time to kill, and make sure there's a Verizon store nearby. Just in case.

Is that you sending spam?

People hate spam. Not the fine meat product by Hormel. That's SPAM and some people like it. Including me.

No, I'm talking about UBE (unsolicited bulk email) or UCE (unsolicited commercial email). Electronic junk mail.

And people could be getting spam from you without you knowing it.

I'll clarify that statement in a bit, but let it sink in for a minute.

Okay? Good.

Hacked

The first way you could be sending spam is that someone has hacked your email account and is using it to send spam.

This could be because you have a password that's too simple. A good practice would be to have a password that's at least 8 character in length, containing at least one upper-case letter, one lower-case letter, one number, and one special character (the characters that aren't letters or numbers, such as underscore, hyphen, dollar sign, and so on).

Microsoft has an online tool you can use to check passwords (either your current or possible future passwords). You can find that here.

If your password is strong, and if you don't write it down where anyone can get it, and if you don't use it on some other service that could have been compromised, then you're probably okay. But, if people are getting spam that says it came from you, you might want to look at changing that email account's password.

Viruses and other malware

Another way you could be sending spam is there is some malicious software (malware) running on your computer. Some malware can send emails (spam) from your computer without you even knowing it.

Got a Mac? It don't matter. Macs can get viruses and other malware, too. Not as likely, and not as much out there as for Windows. But, yes, it can happen. And no, I don't care what the guy at the computer store that sold you your Mac said. I've been running antivirus software on my Macs for some years now, and have been protected when it caught some stuff sent in emails to me, or on Websites that contained malicious content (through advertising services that were hacked).

If you have a Mac, I strongly suggest that you either use the App Store to find some security software, or use a good alternate utility like Sophos. I've been using Sophos for years and like it. And they make a free version for the Mac.

Got a Windows computer? You definitely need a good, up-to-date antivirus solution. There are several good ones, including Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, Panda, and more. I use Microsoft Security Essentials on my Windows computers, but there are plenty of other free utilities, such as Avast, AVG, Avira, and more.

If your stuff if up-to-date, you're probably okay. If not, run updates. If they don't run and update, then likely you're infected and the infection is stopping updates from running properly. If that's the case, you need to clean your computer, then install security software. And keep it up-to-date.

Somebody else is the problem

There's one other possible reason you could be sending spam to people: it's not you.

Remember when I said I'd clarify that earlier statement? This is that clarification.

Could be that somebody else, possibly a friend, has been infected. The malware is on their computer, and is sending spam from their computer.

The reason it looks like it's coming from you is that it's doing something called "spoofing." That is, it's saying that you're the sender. How? Think about mailing a letter. An actual letter. Paper. Envelope. Stamps. A real old-fashioned letter.

How does the recipient know it's from you before they open it? They look at the return address.

Well, suppose you put someone else's name and street address there instead of yours? It would look like it came from that other person.

Spoofing the email sender field isn't much harder than that.

So, it may not be you. It could be some friend or acquaintance that has malware running that's spoofing your email address as the sender. All it did was look through your friend's address book on the infected computer and pick out addresses. One, it picked as the sender, and some others it used as recipients (along with any other list of recipients it has access to).

What do you do about this? Well, unless you can pinpoint which friend is the infected party, there's not much at all you can do about it. Maybe you can preach computer security to them. But other than that, not much.

Oh, and if you're wondering how I know about this infected-friend-sending-as-you thing, it happened to me for the first time several years ago. I wasn't the actual sender; rather, I was the one whose email address was being spoofed.

I got some bounces (where the email was rejected) and looked at the recipients. I recognized many of them as friends of one of my sisters. So I contacted her. Turns out she had turned off her Norton Antivirus because, as she put it, "it made my computer run slow."

And, naturally, she got infected. And the malware sent emails, making me look like a spammer.

No, I wasn't happy. I tried to explain the problem, but I'm not sure if she believed me or not. Turns out, though, that I was right. And PC World has written about similar events.

Summary

So, what did we learn?
  • We need strong passwords.
  • We need to keep our security software up-to-date. Even if we have a Mac.
  • Our friends aren't always as careful as we are.
Remember when computers were going to make our life simpler? How's that working out?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fear

What's your worst fear?

I have a few. Spiders, for instance. I hate spiders. Not a fan of snakes, either.

But the fear I experienced Monday night is the greatest I can recall: fear because a child was in danger.

My grandsons are playing youth football in a league based in the small community of Ladonia, just outside Phenix City, Alabama, and practice has started. And, at last night's practice, one of my grandsons was hurt. And, for a bit, I didn't know how bad. All I knew was that they were calling for an ambulance. And that I was experiencing fear.

Here's how it went down. During practice, one of the drills was for two players to lie on their backs, head to head, several yards apart. On the whistle, they jumped up and ran towards each other, one carrying a football, the other trying to tackle the ball carrier.

My grandson was on the ground, on the left as I was watching. At the whistle, he jumped up and began his part of the drill. He ran towards my right, while the other player ran towards my left, attempting to tackle my grandson.

They met and my grandson came out ahead on the battle. He drove the tackler back and to the ground, but came down too, past the player.

I saw the coach appear to reach down to pat him on the head, giving him a "good job" or "attaboy." But he suddenly squatted next to my grandson, who wasn't getting up. He seemed to do a quick check, then yelled to the sidelines, "Call the ambulance."

I was filming this on my camera phone, and realized what was said. My grandson needed an ambulance.

Every horrible thought went through my mind. I recalled an indoor football player dying after being hit on a play just a few years ago. And I'm scared.

Many rushed out to the field, but I took a breath, stopped my camera, hit the dialer, and called 911.

As scared as I was, I had to shove the fear aside so I could give the Russell County Emergency Services operator good information. I was able to tell her that a youth football coach was yelling for an ambulance for one of his players. I did not know the type or extent of the injury, just that a coach said an ambulance was needed.

I told her where the field was, and gave a landmark. She confirmed where we were, and requested that someone be at the road to direct them. I confirmed that I was heading to the road immediately.

The closest emergency personnel were at the Ladonia Fire Department. It's a minute away. They arrived as I ran through the parking lot, waving them towards the field with the injury.

As they came in, they saw where the emergency was, quickly assessed the best way to get there, and made their way around the parked cars, down the hill, across the ditch, over the fence, and to the field. And, yes, that was the quickest way.

All this time, I didn't know how bad the injury was. But I couldn't think about that, because if I did, I didn't know if I could function. I was worried that it was life-threatening, because of how quickly he called for an ambulance.

As it turned out, my grandson had broken bones in his lower right arm. Though not a compound fracture, it was such that it was immediately evident that there was a break. So, the coach immediately called for an ambulance.

After everything was done -- the EMTs arriving and applying a splint, the ambulance transporting him to the hospital, us following in the car, waiting around the hospital for over an hour, driving him home -- I was finally able to let go.

By then, the reason for the fear -- the unknown -- was gone. But that fear had bottled up. When I finally got back to the house, I had to sit alone in the car for a few minutes just to let it out so I could recover.

When a child is injured, it's a helpless feeling. When you don't know how bad the injury is, that unknown causes one of the worst fears in the world.

I never want to experience that fear again.