I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

little, yappy dogs

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Men and Women

Some of the bigger realizations are often the most simple and obvious.

My beliefs of our primal motivations as humans are pretty simple- men are supposed to range around, kill things, and attempt to spread their seed as far, wide, and as much they can.

Women, on the other hand, are supposed to nurture, support, care, and choose the proper mate- that is, the opposite of men's busy-bee reproductive behavior.

These are fairly common and accepted ideas concerning our psychology.

What just occured to me is the big deal.

Women's natural instincts are all promoted in our society as the proper way for a woman to be. Care. Nurture. Support. Don't run around humping everyone.

Men, on the other hand, get a mixed signal. Don't kill. Well, sometimes. Don't run around and have sex with everything that moves. Well, sometimes.

The base motivators of the male psyche are perverted by society's seemingly well intended rules, women's are promoted.

Is it any surprise that women are often accused of being emotional, irrational, difficult, sexually repressed? That men can't communicate, want sex too much, are violent, won't commit, etc?

If left to our primal urges alone, well, modern society would not function- but there's be a lot less confusion as to how people got along... and a lot more rape and murder- so clearly that's not a very nice way to be.

We're expected to cooperate and conform so that 'society' can have its way, as, obviously that's better. What we get to trade in is part of our own sanity in the process, though. Hmm. That's a bit misleading-- We get to trade in one part of our insanity for another which makes less sense to our mamillian brain.

Our intellectual capabilites create the need for fairness, order, and politeness, all concepts other animals rarely need to impose upon the world.

I think perhaps one of the largest challenges for a man in life is not finding his place but realizing his careful balance between animal and intellectual- what they are and how they work.

Of course, this now brings up the topic: men are the problem, but society is to blame. Carry on my wayward son. Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand? I shot the sherrif. I fought the law and the law won. If you're gonna die, die with your boots on.

There are so many things to be amazed at. Science, nature, astrology, anthropology, linguistics, physics, nerology- it's hard, sometimes, not to imagine that they're not just different gears in the same big machine that we can't quite comprehend.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Definition from wikipedia: An externality is the effect of a transaction between two parties on a third party who is not involved in the carrying out of that transaction.

So, an example of an externalitiy might be: downtown xcompany builds a new production facility in the cheaper suburbs which supplies their locations downtown. The tiny highway connecting them is now overburdened with all of the traffic and tax money must be spent to improve the roads. The externality is- xcompany sells items to their customers, but part of their support network is the state tax which pays for the roadwork. xcompany saves by building in the suburbs, taxpayers (who, certainly, don't all buy xcompany's products) foot the bill for the increased profits for xcomapny.

Externalities are becoming a prominent feature in our daily lives.

Take the consumer goods market. Thorough testing of software and hardware is no longer done.

Windows software is a prime example. Windows is an ongoing public beta. "Public Beta" means that the verion is admittedly not working, and the company wants the public to use it ayway and find out what is wrong so they can fix it- the thinking being that you benefit from getting the software early, and they benefit by your feedback. As we see weekly, they still have not fixed it, as patches and updates constantly come out. I won't bother to go on and on about the fact that a beta is typically free.

When you buy something electronic now, you can pretty much count on getting no help whatsoever from the company that made it if the problems you have aren't RTFM or general don't-know-what-I'm-doing problems. You'll get stuck on hold, transferred, walked through the script by someone who only knows how to do three preschool fixes and doesn't recognize a user who knows what is wrong and can articulately describe it from one who CFTAWAF.

This is an externailty in a way, although it's a little difficult to recognize.

Stockholders in the company and CEOs who need another gold-plated waterbed complain that profits are down. Beancounters reply that we spend X on support, and boy, that's a lot. The numbers get compared to some other department, and our myopic and selfish pals decide to cut costs there to increase waterbed fund. So, company increases profits for stockholders by cutting support funding. Externalization: person buying product gets screwed when their doodad breaks.

What recourse do you have once this happens? Go out into the street, stomp your feet and cry for your mommy. That's about it.

You can't return the product, because it's open.

You can't drive down to the manufacturer and storm into their office, because it's a megacorporation, and they're not down the street, and even if they are, there are armed guards to assure you don't get past the hedge.

You can't do a damn thing about it but complain on your blog. Every now and then that works, and every other now and then, that gets you blog yanked by some shyster lawyer.

Thanks for Nothing, Netgear

I've spent several years doing networking and technical support, and in that time I hae had many opportunities to try out different hardware, different brands, and for some time, Netgear stood out in the consumer-grade class as affordable, well-designed, well supported, and reliable.

Houston, we have a problem.

Recently I bought two Netgear WGR614 v6 Wireless routers- one for a friend, another on behalf of my local coffee shop. In the past few months, these routers have proven about as useful as some of DLink's early hardware- it worked, if you didn't mind stopping what you were doing every five minutes to monkey with it.

In my attempt to track down the problem, I have discovered that a vast majority of the people in the world who bought this hardware have had a bad time with it, and the biggest complaint is that it needs to be reset all the time.

The tech support is the #2 complaint.

Synopsis? Netgear has followed the path of all other large companies in their solution for their bad hardware. When the cost of a recall or repair threatens to exceed what the company has anticipated for their product, they outsource the support for said hardware to the cheapest possible vendor which could still be referred to as "support", make no mention or admission of issues with the said hardware, and do what they know will get them through the storm: ignore their customers until they give up and go away.

The bean counters seem to feel that keeping the cost of doing business down must unavoidably involve pissing some people off, and that's OK.

The WGR614 retails for about $49. After testing someone's patience with a.) setting the device up [which can prove daunting even for someone familiar with the process], b.) figuring out what the issue is, c.) gettting through to support, and d.) finding that 'support' is a questionable term for what they receive-- Joe Average is probably going to get back to paying the bills, doing the laundry, walking the dog, etc, and try to forget how he now has $50 less, and a malfunctioning piece of junk.

You want my money, Netgear? Act respectable. You clearly sold a product which had not passed thorough testing. Put up a website and allow people to sign up for your free replacement service: they enter their serial number, you ship them a sase to get their junker back to you, and you ship them a different model which actually works as a replacement.

I suspect I will see pigs flying before that, though.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Some thoughts on beliefs, law, and the USA

Often, lately, the phrases "Land of the free, home of the brave," and "with liberty and justice for all." come into my head.

But first, a detour. I have often noticed that people live their lives one way, but speak of their beliefs and how they think things ought to be done in another. A fictional example: Uncle Frank, the-present-at-every-family-gathering and usually-a-little-drunk character in everyone's lives who is a prime example of this behavior. Frank goes on at length about how much money is wasted on social services, but his very own children would not have made it through college without student loans. Frank complains about other races or religions, but his son in law is a black jew who he loves dearly. Frank can't stand liberals because they are destroying the country, but his safe drinking water, drugs, foods, vehicles, roads, as well as his lunch breaks, 8-hour work day, no mandatory overtime, and many other things we all count on were all fought bitterly for by those very same dreaded liberals.

In short, Uncle Frank talks out his ass a lot, but we know he's a good guy and doesn't mean it. Or, another way to look at it is, as long as Frank knows you, he's not going to screw you over. But what about the people Frank doesn't know? Ones he will never meet and knows nothing of? Will he vote to remove the same amenities he enjoys?

I said it. Vote. Back to the subject.

So, the ideas I mean to speak of are the ones we, as Unites States citizens all consider to be immutable: That an individual has the freedom to their own beliefs and actions so long as those actions don't harm others; that our nation is the one which others should look to as an example of a proper way to be; that it is our diversity which makes us strong, and it is our ability to intentionally get along which allows that strength to prosper.

I'm afraid, though, I don't see much of any of this going on lately.

It seems that now, having been here a generation or ten, people here fail to realize that each of us is an immigrant- except for the native Americans.

And belief. What does it mean to have a country with freedom of religion if people vote into law their religious beliefs? If 51% of the nation says "Our god told us not to do that, so you can't either," how free are we? Isn't this just what our ancestors moved to this continent to escape? Someone else telling them they couldn't practice their own beliefs?

And Law. What use is a legal system in which an obvious truth can be overridden by a defendant with deep pockets, public opinion, or a technicality?

When we get a doctor bill for $400 after a 3 minute once-over by a doctor, there's truth in that number, and lies in it too. To become a doctor, typically you need to go to school for more than six years, and do internships, and work relentless hours. The people who can stick that out are few, and we often forget that we're in the presence of an elite few who have devoted their lives to trying to fix us when we are broken. The lies are deep and entwining. The system a doctor must submit to in order to practice is colossal. Medical insurance is just getting more and more expensive. Drug companies, as we know, delight in being the first to produce a cure because they will get to charge a fortune for it. The bureaucracy, red tape, cost of doing business, and too many other things all get into the bill somehow, and instead of the 29-cent q-tip that went in your ear, and 3-feet of tissue paper you sat on, you're paying forward- the cost of keeping the doctor in business.

But back to law. A lawyer, like a doctor, is one of an elite few who can withstand the rigorous schooling necessary. Unlike a doctor, though, a lawyer is buying into a self-perpetuating system- curing a person is a noble cause, but winning a legal case only creates one more thing for lawyers to study, possibly one more loophole for someone to escape justice, and only deepens the divide between the common man and some kind of just result.

Imagine a cell phone service provider. There are many, so they tempt you with this, that, and the other thing in order to get you to sign a 1-year contract. Once you have signed you realize when you need help, if you don't have generic problem A, B or C, you will have to wait on hold and be transferred to 4 different people before you find out they can't help you. This is fair, in a way, because you had a choice- either another company, or no phone.

With a legal system, though, there is no option. When an unavoidable conflict with the law ends up in your lap, you have to have a lawyer, and you have the legal system created by lawyers, and you have to put up with the resources you have at hand- usually very little. There is no choice involved.

Does anyone trust a politician? Is there a single politician who does not lie or try to fill their own or friends' pockets with our money? Aren't these the same people we 'trust' to safeguard our legal system and assure that when we, the poor and lambasted nobodies who make up the country, are confronted with the law we all receive the same possible results as anyone else?

If we have to trust politicians, obviously we are in trouble.

But our constitution is there for us, right? When politicians violate the constitution, they are supposed to be punished, right?

I see gay marriage being made a big deal. I really can't believe anyone is giving it a second thought.

I see abortion being made a big deal, but I also see the laws not addressing it properly- if abortion is murder, then we need to issue birth certificates at the point of conception, and we need to have funerals for miscarriages, and we need to become, apparently, very, very invasive in peoples' private lives.

I had meant to come to the point, here, that there is a distinct lack of a clear line, conceptually, in what you can and can't make a law about. If you can make a law based on your belief which would prohibit others to act freely in their beliefs, then we are neither a free nor brave country. Until that point is discovered and carved in stone somewhere, people are going to be at each other's throats over whose beliefs are right.