I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

little, yappy dogs

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

H&R BLOCK: Sucks

Well, H&R Block can kiss my big white butt.

I've used them for several years now, and they actually have the audacity to expect me to PAY them to do my taxes online.

The last... 4 years? have been free. Clicky clicky, waaaait, all done.

They currently have a link on the IRS website, under the FreeFile section, the informational text for which reads:

"Free File allows taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $52,000 or less in 2006 to e-file their federal tax returns for free. That means 70 percent of all taxpayers – 95 million taxpayers – can take advantage of the Free File program."

Which means that since they have had themselves listed on the IRS FreeFile page, I should be able to file my taxes without paying anything on the H&R Block website.

Well guess what?

The informational text on the page you're taken to from the IRS website reads:

"Get simple, FREE* federal online tax preparation with TaxCut Free File from H&R Block. You qualify if you have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $52,000 or less and are 50 years of age or under. Plus, with TaxCut there are no forms to select, and e-file is included! Learn More"

And then, clicking the "learn more" link, you can find out:

"TaxCut Free File Online
Free File Tax Program Get easy, low-cost tax preparation.

TaxCut Free File Online guides you through your simple, federal return to help ensure your taxes are done right. Plus, there are no forms to select.

* Federal program
* FREE federal e-file
* State program* - additional $24.95


* Step-by-Step Interview - Our interview asks simple questions to quickly walk you through the tax preparation process.

* Seamless Imports - Quickly and easily import last year's tax and financial data from TaxCut Online, TaxCut Software, TurboTax Software and H&R Block offices.

* Error Check - Our program automatically double-checks your return for errors and omissions.

* Advice for Changing Tax Situations - Receive tax guidance in changes in your life, such as getting married, having a baby, buying a home and more.

* Get Your Refund Fast - E-file your return, and get your refund in as little to 7-10 days.

* Convenient Payment Options - Pay for your preparation fees with your refund.

* Worry-free Audit Support When You E-file - You can rest easy knowing H&R Block is there to help in the rare event of an audit. Included when you e-file your federal return with us.

* Maximum Refund Guarantee - Get the maximum refund you're entitled to, or your return is free.**

* Accurate Calculations Guaranteed - If TaxCut makes a calculation mistake, we'll pay resulting IRS penalties plus interest. See the license agreement for details.

* The following states do not support part-year/non-resident forms: WI, OR, KY, AL, LA, UT, OK, ME, AR, ID, VT, DC, MT, DE, ND, HI, TN, NH

** If you find another online tax preparation method that results in a larger refund (or smaller liability) than that calculated by the TaxCut online tax program, we will refund the fees you paid us to use our online tax program to prepare that return. To qualify, the larger refund or smaller tax liability must not be due to differences in data supplied by you, or positions taken on your return that are contrary to law.

To make a claim, mail a copy of the Federal tax return created by the TaxCut online tax program as well as the Federal return prepared by the alternative online tax preparation method (and any other relevant information reasonably requested by H&R Bock Digital Tax Solutions) to Attn: TaxCut Refund Claims, H&R Block Digital Tax Solutions, 4400 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Missouri 64130 within the same calendar year in which your tax return was prepared and filed. Returns prepared by TaxCut desktop software, H&R Block Signature, H&R Block Online Office or an H&R Block retail office solution are not qualifying alternative tax preparation methods."

Now, I have used their service in the past, and never had to pay. This time, though, as soon as I logged on, there was a "choose your package" page, and no sign of a free option. So, I clicked the FreeFile link on the IRS site, I clicked the big red "file for free!" link on H&R Block's page, I logged on, and I was offered no free option. I assumed the cheapest one (followed by an asterisk) must be the right one, so, having no other option, I tried it.

...and guess what does not appear until you have COMPLETELY finished your federal return:

"TaxCut Premium Fed $19.95

Note: E-filing is free when you pay for tax preparation. We can't guarantee that your return will be eligible for e-filing or that the IRS or state taxing authorities will accept your e-filed return."


There is also apparently no way to go back and find the free option.

From my e-mail comment to them:

"Very, very nice. From the IRS website: "Free File allows taxpayers... to e-file their federal tax returns for free." You are listed on that page, but you charge $19.95. I have used your services in the past, but for wasting my time like that, you're getting a nice blog write-up."

In addition, I will not use their services again.

BYE BYE, bait and switch jerks. I will not reward your deception with my money.

I decided, instead, to use a little-guy company, [edit! 2/2012] I was previously promoting Liberty Tax here, but they redid their site in 2010 and it was so bad, I moved on to www.freetaxusa.com, and for the last three years they've done a great job.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Your Top Movies List

We also created a 'best ever' movies list. Here it is!

How do we compare to IMDB's top 250 movies of all time? If the movie
was found, it is proceeded by the top 250 ranking, otherwise a '-'.
(any spelling variation could have caused one to not display its
proper rank, do not despair!)

34 5 The Matrix (1999, Wachowski bros)
32 4 Fight Club (1999, David Fincher)
33 3 American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes)
37 3 Apocalypse Now
97 3 Blade Runner
105 3 Fargo (1996, Coen Brothers)
49 3 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
9 3 Pulp Fiction
- 3 The Fifth Element (1997, Luc Besson)
65 3 The Shining (1977, Stanley Kubrick)
- 2 12 Monkeys (1995, Terry Gilliam)
79 2 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, stanley Kubrick)
- 2 Akira
58 2 Alien
- 2 Blood Simple
95 2 Braveheart 1996
- 2 City of Lost Children (1995, Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
- 2 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
99 2 Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick)
- 2 Ghost in the Shell
- 2 Good Will Hunting
23 2 Goodfellas
- 2 Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata)
- 2 Hero (2002, Yimou Zhang)
28 2 Lawrence of Arabia
- 2 Life Is Beautiful
- 2 My Neighbor Totoro
- 2 O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Coen brothers)
- 2 Pirates of the Caribbean
17 2 Raiders of the Lost Ark
- 2 Raising Arizona
64 2 Saving Private Ryan
48 2 Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
155 2 Stand by Me
11 2 Star Wars
1 2 The Godfather 1972
69 2 The Manchurian Candidate 1962
- 2 The Piano
125 2 The Princess Bride
2 2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994, Frank Darabont)
16 2 The Usual Suspects
92 2 The Wizard of Oz
- 2 There's Something About Mary
- A Bug's Life
- A Night At The Opera
- A Time for Drunken Horses (2000, Bahman Ghobadi)
- Alice in Wonderland
72 Aliens
- Amelie
- American Graffiti
138 Amores Perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu)
- Angel's Egg
- Barfly
- Before the Rain (1994, Milcho Manchevski)
- Bent
- Big Trouble in Little China
- Black Hawk Down
- Boondock Saints
236 Brazil
- Breakfast Club
- Breaking Away
- Brokeback Mountain
- Castaway
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Chasing Amy
- Chicken Run
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
21 Citizen Kane
- Clerks
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Closer
- Collateral
- Contact
- Dances with Wolves
- Dead Poets Society
- Death and the Maiden (1994, Polanski)
240 Doctor Zhivago
- Dogma
101 Donnie Darko
19 Dr. Strangelove
- Dreams Akira Kurosawa
- Drunken Master
- Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
- El Dorado
38 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Ever After
- Fame
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Field of Dreams
- Fitzcarraldo
- Five Easy Pieces
- Flirting
86 Forrest Gump
- Forsyte Saga
- From Russia With Love
- Garden State
- Gentleman's Agreement 1947 - Postwar film about anti-semitism
139 Gladiator
- Glengarry Glen Ross
159 Glory
- Grease
- Hair
199 Heat
- Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959, Alain Resnais)
- How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
- I Heart Huckabees
229 Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa)
83 Jaws
- Jimmy Neutron
- Kung Fu Hustle
- Kung Pow
- La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz)
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky
- Leaving Las Vegas
- Mallrats
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Men in Black
60 Metropolis 1927
- Miller's Crossing
221 Monsters, Inc.
- Moonstruck
- Moulin Rouge
- Mr. Deeds
- My Left Foot
- Mystery Train
- Night of the Were Rabbit
- No Way Out
- Nosferatu 1922
- Oceans 11 (1960, Lewis Milestone)
- Office Space
117 Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park)
- Overboard
- Philadelphia
- Play it forward
- Pride & Prejudice The A&E/BBC mini-series - Colin Firth at his finest
- Princess Mononoke
- Queen Margo
70 Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese)
- Raising Arizona
103 Ran
- Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
- Regarding Henry
- Repo Man
62 Reservoir Dogs
- Rio Bravo
- Run Lola Run (1998, Tom Tykwer)
- Rush Hour
- Rushmore
- Sanjuro
235 Scarface
6 Schindler's List
- Sense & Sensibility Emma Thompson version
- Serendipity
7 Seven Samurai
185 Shrek
- Singles
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Snatch
- South Park (the movie)
- Space Balls
- Stargate
- Strictly Ballroom
36 Taxi Driver
- Terms of Endearment
- The Big Chill
191 The Big Lebowski
- The Breakfast Club
- The Bridges of Madison County
- The Butterfly Effect
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- The Devil's Advocate
10 The Empire Strikes Back
187 The Exorcist
- The Fugitive (1993, Andrew Davis)
- The Game
- The Gift
8 The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
76 The Great Escape
129 The Green Mile
- The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)
- The Hunt For Red October
88 The Incredibles
- The Jerk
- The Last Unicorn
- The Life of Brian
- The Lion King
14 The Lord of the Rings
- The Lord of the rings, Two Towers
56 The Maltese Falcon
- The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frederic Back)
- The Mothman Prophecies
- The Muppet Movie
- The Music Man
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- The Others
- The Pink Panther (1963, Blake Edwards)
- The Quiet Man
27 The Silence of the Lambs 1992
- The Sound of Music
81 The Sting
- The Survivors
- The Thin Man
- The Thomas Crown Affair
178 Toy Story
142 Toy Story 2
- Uncommon Valor
119 Unforgiven
110 V for Vendetta
35 Vertigo
- Wallace and Gromit
- Watership Down
- Whale Rider
- What the Bleep
- When Harry Met Sally
- Wickerman (1973, Robin Hardy)
- X Men 2
123 Yojimbo
213 Young Frankenstein


Here now, the original votes and voters, with any comments they sent along concerning the movies they voted for.


Star Wars
Blade Runner
Life Is Beautiful
2001; A Space Odyssey
The Big Lebowski
Raising Arizona
The Piano
There's Something About Mary
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Pulp Fiction
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pirates of the Carribean
The Matrix
When Harry Met Sally
The Wizard of Oz
The Music Man
The Sting
Brokeback Mountain
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Kung Fu Hustle
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- recent version
Saving Private Ryan
Apocolypse Now
Forrest Gump
The Shawshank Redemption
Blood Simple
Black Hawk Down
The Fifth Element
The Shining
Five Easy Pieces
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Terms of Endearment
The Bridges of Madison County
Breaking Away
My Left Foot
The Usual Suspects
American Beauty
Glengarry Glen Ross
Twelve Monkeys
The Fugitive (Harrison Ford remake)
The Thomas Crown Affair
The Life of Brian
The Pink Panther (original)
South Park (the movie)
The Lion King
The Incredibles
Toy Story 1 and 2
A Bug's Life
Monsters, Inc.
Office Space
I Heart Huckabees

The Matrix It blew my mind
The Gift - Never again can you claim that Keanu can't act!
The Manchurian Candidate - 1962 version
Dreams - Akira Kurasawa
O Brother Where Art Thou - I'm a Dapper Dan man!
Singles - The anthem of my youth
Pride & Prejudice - The A&E/BBC mini-series - Colin Firth at his finest
Sense & Sensibility - Emma Thompson version - Beautiful, nuanced
acting by the entire cast
Gentleman's Agreement - 1947 - Postwar film about anti-semitism

Heat Best shoot-out ever seen - (the downtown LA shoot-out is
incredible in surround sound.) De Niro and Pacino, come on does it get
any better?
the Matrix
Reservoir Dogs
Uncommon Valor
Lord of the Rings
Makes you think:
Saving Private Ryan
Dances with Wolves
Good Will Hunting
The Devil's Advocate
Apocalypse Now
Sleepless in Seattle
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ultimate twist:
No Way Out A real NO WAY!Movie in the last five minutes
The Game
The Usual Suspects
Tingly chill feeling going down you back:
Field of Dreams - more goose bumps than any movie so far - yes, I'm a pussy.
The Green Mile
Cowboy Movies:
El Dorado
Rio Bravo , wait isn't this the same movie as El Dorado?
Pirates of the Caribbean
Rush Hour
The Princess Bride
Mr. Deeds
Space Balls
Chasing Amy
The Godfather series
The Great Escape
Full Metal Jacket
Collateral – love the lighting and camera angles

Godfather 1972
Good Will Hunting
Breakfast Club
Taxi Driver
SIlence of the Lambs 1992
Braveheart 1996
American Beauty
Dead Poets Society
Pulp Fiction

V for Vendetta,
Ghost in the Shell,
Donnie Darko,
Two Towers,
Fifth Element,
Pulp Fiction,
Alice in Wonderland,
Fight Club,
Drunken Master,
City of Lost Children,
Princess Bride,
Ferris Bueller's Day Off,
Leaving Las Vegas
Star Wars
Blade Runner
X Men 2
My Neighbor Totoro
Holy Grail

The Jerk (Because Steve Martin was the funniest man alive back then
and the movie was just so full of funny moments. Ironically funny. )
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Others
Something About Mary
How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
Ever After
Regarding Henry

///Michael B.
The Big Chill (The movie is all about making and keeping connections
and believing in life while accepting death)
Lawrence of Arabia
Stand By Me
American Graffiti
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Shining
Young Frankenstein
From Russia With Love
The Hunt For Red October
Oceans 11 (the original)
The Thin Man
The Quiet Man
Doctor Zhivago

Queen Margo
Boondock Saints
Forsyte Saga
Strictly Ballroom
Raising Arizona
The Piano
The Survivors
Wickerman (the orginal)

Before the Rain (1994, Milcho Manchevski)
Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese)
Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959, Alain Resnais)
A Time for Drunken Horses (2000, Bahman Ghobadi)
The Shining (1977, Stanley Kucbrick)
Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick)
American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes)
Fargo (1996, Coen Brothers)
Death and the Maiden (1994, Polanski)
La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz)
Fight Club (1999, David Fincher)
Amores Perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu)

The Fifth Element (1997, Luc Besson)
Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa)
City of Lost Children (1995, Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Coen brothers)
12 Monkeys (1995, Terry Gilliam)
The Matrix (1999, Wachowski bros)
Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
Hero (2002, Yimou Zhang)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994, Frank Darabont)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata)
Fight Club (1999, David Fincher)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, stanley Kubrik)
Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park)
Run Lola Run (1998, Tom Tykwer)
Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frederic Back)

The Muppet Movie
Whale Rider
What the Bleep
Stand by Me
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Garden State
The Sound of Music
The Wizard of Oz
Moulin Rouge

///shelly jeffrey michael
Play it forward
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Kung Pow
Monty Python
Jimmy Nuetron
Men in Black
Chicken Run
Night of the Were Rabbit
Wallace and Gromit

Seven Samurai
Miller's Crossing
Good Fellas
Princess Mononoke
Dr. Strangelove
The Haunting 1963
The Maltese Falcon
Citizen Kane
Big Trouble in Little China
The Nightmare Before Christmas
My Neighbor Totoro
The Manchurian Candidate 1962
A Night At The Opera
Apocalypse Now
The Breakfast Club
Repo Man
Lawrance of Arabia
Metropolis 1927
Watership Down
Nosferatu 1922
Mystery Train
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Blood Simple
Raising Arizona
Fight Club
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Empire Strikes Back
Angel's Egg
Ghost in the Shell

The Last Unicorn
Schindler's List
The Mothman Prophecies
The Butterfly Effect
Life is Beautiful
The Exorcist
Memoirs of a Geisha
Grave of the Fireflies
Spirited Away

Star Wars - Original mind blower
The Matrix - Beautiful, innovative
There's Something About Mary - Laughed 'til I hurt
When Harry Met Sally - First romantic movie I dug; well done
Singles - Anthems of my youth; all time favorite soundtrack; Seattle
Dreams - Gorgeous
O Brother Where Art Thou - Fun, great music
Pride & Prejudice (BBC version) - Fantastic dialog; stands up to watching over and over
Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Best high school kid movie out there
Better Off Dead - Second best high school kid movie out there
Holy Grail - Don't know I've even seen the entire thing, but it's so quotable
Run Lola Run - Edge of your seat the whole time; different
Moulin Rouge - Quality; beautiful

(Steve, alas, voted too late, and his votes didn't make it into the compiled list at the beginning- but they're here now! Better late than never- thanks Steve!)

The 'Never Again' song list

Here's a little list some friends and I compiled recently- the "songs that never need to be heard again" list. If it is listed twice, that meas two people voted for (against?) it.

* What's up? * Four Non Blondes
* What's up? * Four Non Blondes
* stairway to heaven * Led zeppelin
* Stairway to Heaven * Led Zeppelin
* I Will Always Love You * Whitney Houston
* I will always love you * Whitney Houston
* Bohemian Rhapsody * Queen
* We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions * Queen
* You Shook me All night long * AC/DC *
* I Saw the Sign * Ace of Base *
* Dude (Looks Like a Lady) * Aerosmith *
* Respect * Aretha Franklin *
* Who let the Dogs out * Baha Men (or anyone who sings it at all) *
* We Didn't Start the Fire * Billy Joel *
* Achy Breaky Heart * Billy Ray Cyrus *
* No Woman, No cry * bob marley *
* Livin' on a Prayer * Bon Jovi *
* Oops I did it again * Brittany Spears *
* Taking care of Business * BTO *
* down on the corner * CCR *
* My heart will go on * Celine Deon *
* Lady Marmalade * Christina Aguilera's *
* Do You Have to Let it Linger * Cranberries *
* Heart of Rock and Roll * Huey Lewis *
* What a Wonderful World * Louis Armstrong *
* Working For the Weekend * Loverboy *
* U Can't Touch This * M.C. Hammer *
* Spirit in the Sky * Norman Greenbaum *
* Wonderwall * Oasis *
* When a Man Loves a Woman * Percy Sledge *
* Another Brick in the Wall * Pink Floyd *
* Neutron Dance * Pointer Sisters *
* Shiny Happy People * R.E.M. *
* Creep * Radiohead *
* Keep on Lovin' you * REO Speedwagon *
* Abraxis * Santana *
* Soak Up the Sun * Sheryl Crow *
* Top of the Pops * Smithereens *
* People Get Ready * Sonny & Brownie *
* If You wanna be my lover * Spice Girls *
* We Built This City * Starship *
* Born To Be Wild * Steppenwolf *
* Incense and Peppermints * strawberry alarmclock *
* Macarena * that one band that did the macarena *
* Zombie * The Cranberries *
* hotel california * the eagles *
* mickey * toni basil *
* Ice Ice Baby * vanilla ice *

--- and now, listed by who voted for it:

By Submitter:


stairway to heaven Led zeppelin
down on the corner CCR
hotel california the eagles
mickey toni basil
Wonderwall Oasis


Creep Radiohead


Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin
Another Brick in the Wall Pink Floyd
Dude (Looks Like a Lady) Aerosmith
Livin' on a Prayer Bon Jovi
U Can't Touch This M.C. Hammer
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions Queen
Born To Be Wild Steppenwolf


"What's Going On" Four Non Blondes
"I Saw the Sign" Ace of Base
"Zombie" The Cranberries
"Do You Have to Let it Linger" Cranberries
"Lady Marmalade" Christina Aguilera's

Michael R.

What a Wonderful World Louis Armstrong
When a Man Loves a Woman Percy Sledge
People Get Ready Sonny & Brownie
Abraxis Santana
Respect Aretha Franklin
Incense and Peppermints strawberry alarmclock


Working For the Weekend Loverboy
Heart of Rock and Roll Huey Lewis
We Built This City Starship
We Didn't Start the Fire Billy Joel
Shiny Happy People R.E.M.


Spirit in the Sky Norman Greenbaum
I Will Always Love You Whitney Houston
Achy Breaky Heart Billy Ray Cyrus
Soak Up the Sun Sheryl Crow
Neutron Dance Pointer Sisters


Ice Ice Baby vanilla ice
No Woman, No cry bob marley
You Shook me All night long AC/DC


Oops I did it again Brittany Spears
If You wanna be my lover Spice Girls
Who let the Dogs out Baha Men (or anyone who sings it at all)


Macarena that one band that did the macarena


Top of the Pops Smithereens


What's Going on? Concrete Blonde
I will always love you Whitney Houston
My heart will go on Celine Deon
Taking care of Business BTO
Keep on Lovin' you REO Speedwagon

...if you'd like a link to your blog or something added to the list, just let me know and I'll fix it up.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Free Will- comparative behavior

I think I may have solved the problem of free will, that is, it can be proven not to exist, but I feel like the proof may be more of a logical fallacy. Let's see.

It's all in how you define it.

In order to have a will, you have to have a mind.

There must be differentiation between behavior of a mind with and without free will.

For the definitions to mean much, we must give them a range to operate in. We are human, and bound to this planet, and we know of organisms on this planet, so, for our definitions to mean anything useful, the range cannot include the undefined or infinitely complicated possibilities, therefore, we limit ourselves to life on earth and what we know of it. This is how most of science works- so that's fair- science cannot include something it has not discovered yet, except in so much as to suppose that it exists because of assertions that it does... but I digress.

This range does not include any fanciful assertions of determinism. There is no all-powerful something pushing or pulling us. What has gone before and led up to the moment we find ourselves making a choice was not planned by some grand architect.

So, definitions:

behavior: the actions of a living being- one with a mind or without.

mind: a brain which operates correctly in comparison to others like it- there are many creatures which have 'something' like a brain, however, mind, for my purposes, shall have to be a function of higher life forms such as reptiles, mammals, etc.

choice: the selection of a particular path

decision: behavior exhibited by a mind which indicates it has recognized a situation in which it has the option to make a choice

learned behavior: the actions of a living being which that being did not acquire as part of its natural growth or built-in tendencies (splitting hairs over what is and is not learned behavior will not be part of this discussion)

So. Two examples, many results.

A donut is left on the living room coffee table. We will throw out all of the implied determinism of someone foolishly leaving the donut there, etc, and call it a blank state- something will happen to the donut regardless of the will of the donut leaver, so it is a moot point.

example one, the dog. The dog wants to eat the donut, and were the dog not a fairly well-behaved dog (having some learned behavior), the dog would undoubtedly simply eat the donut. However, the dog has been in trouble numerous times for such behavior, and has learned- when the man is around, don't eat stuff. However, the learned behavior does not prevent the dog from eating the donut, so, after minimal processing, the dog concludes that its base drive, "eat the donut" is ok, and the dog eats the donut.

example two, the man. The man also wants to eat the donut, and while the man has a lot more learned behavior than the dog, not a lot of that applies to the donut. One thing the man has learned and CAN apply to the donut is logic- the "if A then B" kind of symbolic logic that you might have learned in college.

At first glance this might seem no different than the learned behavior the dog displayed.

The big difference is that the realm of possibilities in logic is vast, and the number of outcomes cannot all possibly be forseen by the man- therefore, with the ability to come to a conclusion, even concerning the donut, which had never before existed as a concrete result in the man's mind by exercising the rules of logic (if the man is indeed a diligent thinker and not just sloppily trying to prove that he should eat the donut), the man has a learned behavior which constitutes something different than the decision making behavior of the dog.

I say, because the man can learn logic (for example), and because the man has the opportunity to exercise the option to stop, think, and come to a logical conclusion about the situation, pulling from a result set which could not possibly have previously existed in his mind, that the man has the OPTION to exercise the thing which is said not to exist- free will.

This removes the 'no free will' argument as it stands, as that arguent is based on the concept that you came to the point of choice with the answer already in your head- you simply trick yourself into believing that you arrived at it on your own. That's as wrong as saying I already know what 233,231,636,341 divided by 978,422 is, merely because I just had the numbers in my head and the methods at my disposal to discover the answer- but I definitely don't know, even now, several seconds later.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of occasions, examples, situations in which it can be proven quite conclusively that we don't, in fact, make up our own minds the way we think we do- all this proves for sure is that we don't really know how the gears in there turn.

(if you're astounded that free will does not exist, see the many long discussions on it at wikipedia, the dilbert blog, etc.)

The Truth, Again

The Truth.

What good is it?

Can it set you free?


Let's say, for example, that I had definitive proof of a major conspiracy within the government of the USA. This proof would find guilty more than half of the members of congress, the senate, and the white house.

Now, provided I was able to broadband the information to as much of the country as possible before the men in black came for me, what has the truth gotten me? Probably not so free, with that hood over my head in Guantanamo.

Or, perhaps, is it just KNOWING the truth? At what point are you free?

There's an old saying about knowledge being power. There's another old saying about knowledge being a source of unhappiness- and thus, the inverse: ignorance is bliss.

See where this is going? Possibly that there are the unhappy powerful and the blissful powerless? Yeah. Too easy a jump to make, but a tempting one none the less.

I feel like this all comes back to the hypocrisy of our existence. The major aspect of this, we're intelligent, sentient, emotional creatures who at least in theory think that killing is wrong- however, our existence is directly linked to killing animals and plants so that we can eat them. What other hypocrisy do we have to accept? Our lack of free will, and our own denial of this fact? Our animal level desires and our high-level learned behavior which dissuades it? Which one is the salad fork?

It is not uncommon for me to go on and on here about pretty much the same subject, but in a different way. All of my ramblings center around a world in which people continue to get by most of the time and continue (as always) to think that they're somehow special, or better, or "the one". Perhaps a uniquely Mmerikkan mindset.

If we are all thinking sentient beings, how do we tolerate those who may never make it through such simple lessons as all of us are equal, no viewpoint is better, no religion is the 'right' one? How can a level playing field be set when people who lack human compassion can take advantage of the system to their own benefit?

Are the supposed 'millions' of welfare mothers who drain our precious tax dollars away really any worse than the very few politicians who come and bleed us dry- and then blame our tax shortfalls on such strawman arguments as welfare?

And then on to my viewpoint.

We are thinking animals, capable of both intricate design and ham-fisted destruction. We set forth the idea that there must be something higher than just eating, sleeping, working, reproducing, and buying stuff at the mall. Certainly each person has their idea of what this 'something more' is... and I am not talking about god or anything lame like that. If we are here to assure the continued progression and betterment of the human being in this universe, how can anything 'progress' if we are led by liars, robbed by liars, and continue in a pattern of existence which has not dramatically changed for thousands of years?

The problems of the ancient greeks are the same problems we face today- the ever-present fallibility of the human being and their selfish nature, and how these problems continually manifest themselves in society.

It only takes one person to ruin a good thing. There's one in every crowd. Opinions are like assholes. Tall dark and handsome.

If the religious are to be our example, we are doomed, again, as Scott Adams points out, if 2/3rds of the world trult believed their god would mash them to a pulp for an eternity if they did not give to the poor, help their brother, etc, there would be no homelessness, starvation, etc. Religion on a large scale is not a vehicle for dispensing salvation, it is a tool of control.

If the government if to be our example, we are screwed even worse, as evidenced by every politician who has ever lived- they lie, they break promises, they don't do what they're supposed to, and they smile for the camera and get a long, boring memorial service on every channel when they croak.

If our schools are to be our salvation, we're screwed again- the policial machine takes every chance it can get to under-fund and retard our schools. Keeping the populace excited about buying stuff, fearful of losing that stuff, fearful of each other, and ignorant is a great way to assure they won't come after you with pitchforks and torches when they figure out how much of their tax money you have wasted.

I'm realizing I haven't been making much of a point. [sigh]

The ball of string is too big, and I can't but describe little sections of it at once.

Friday, January 12, 2007

PR Battles

As an adult, I've always had a strong distrust of the news media. The more you learn about it, the less worthy of your attention it is. No surprise there, really.

Public Relations Battles, the fight between two sides of an issue for a foothold and high standing in the minds of the public, have recently become a fascinating topic for me.

In most cases a real PR battle happens when one or both sides has either money or truth- the more interesting of which is typically when the side with the money is not the side with the truth.

Take, for example, the recent uprising of news stories in which well-funded organizations, such as the "[d is cover y] [in sti tu te]", come forth to battle with science in the long-standing 'battle' over evolution/intelligent design.

For the most part, scientists are like artists- some end up getting huge grants, or contracts, but most of them do it because they love what they do. So the science side of the argument, here, is not the big money side.

The aforementioned and purposely misspelled institute is our lacking-in-truth, but not so in money side of the battle.

Let's never mind for a moment that this particular subject is one of my favorites, and just look at the logistics of the situation.

Scientists, on one hand, have two major concerns- that hard science will be demoted in schools and that their already sparse funding will lessen even further because of this loss of focus.

Creationists, on the other hand, I'm not so sure what they stand to lose. That their belief system will suffer a loss of membership? That their heavenly leader will be angered if they don't ferverently defend their beliefs? Or is it just that deep down inside they are peeved that someone dares to publicly disagree with their beliefs in the good ol' U S and A, where we all have one god- theirs?

In any case, the creationists consistently bring absolutely nothing to the table which stands up to the logic and reason of science- however, time and time again they are granted audience with legitimate smart people of all sorts, and the ensuing joke of a discussion invariably ends up being an insult to the scientist.

Oh. I am venting.

That is, one side has a scientific theory (please go look up theory, maybe spend a few minutes studying the difference between common and scientific usages of the two) to back them up, and the other has- nothing more than a book anyone could have made up, and their passionate belief in that book.

Now, why this is important.

The media.

sets up 'forum for discussion'

grants access to someone who has painstakingly researched, catalogued, and diagramed their works,

grants access to someone else who has thought at great length about someone or something they have never seen, never heard, and only read about in a book of dubious origin.

The viewer, while possibly ignorant of either side, is presented with 'something', as if, somehow, putting the two together suggests an even match. As if something either of them could say in 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, or half an hour, could actually prove anything of consequence. If it were possible, this result would already exist- and I'm quite certain it does not.

The result? The viewer is pummeled with this side, that side, this side, that side- and somehow now there is some glint of credibility for the creationist.

For this particular subject ID/evolution, there are facts too complicated, esoteric, and deep for 90%+ of the viewership to comprehend or absorb in a 30-minute episode that block a proper appreciation of the consistency and validity of the theory of evolution. On the other side of the fence, many many years can be spent 'studying' and playing along with whatever belief system you prefer to choose- after which you may likely be considered an expert on it- whether you made up your belief system or not.

So, somehow, in the public eye, it now appears that there IS actually some sort of debate to be had- the side which has no leg to stand on, now, somehow, gets invited to discussion after discussion.

And that's my point. The interesting PR battles are between the monied and wrong, and the poor and right. I suspect, in this case, the powers that be know that science cannot be allowed to win big in the eyes of the public. Religion is too strong a factor in winning votes from the ignorant such that our public tax dollars can be diverted away from keeping us alive and towards sending us away to die- and towards nice cushy contracts. But that's a different rant.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Something Nice to Say?


I am almost loathe to post a nice entry.

Especially about a megacorporation. Oh well.

Last spring I won an already-registered with Cingular Motorola Razr cell phone and $100 in pre-paid airtime from 94.7, and that was great because I didn't have a cell phone at the time.

Anyway, I thought this was pretty nifty. Moreover, pretty nifty since I the last cell phone I had was with Cingular, and just 10 short months after I purchased my fancy Sony-Ericsson, they purchased AT&T's cell service and made it clear my phone would have to be replaced. So I felt they owed me one.

Well, back to the story.

I picked up a 'powered by fastcard' pre-paid refill at Fred Meyer, and when I went to recharge my phone, there was a message: "your account will expire march something '07, and you cannot add airtime after january 01, '07. Please contact Cingular to upgrade..."

Why, I was halfway to the gun shop, I tell you.

I tried to find out WTF online, and of course, that was a waste of my time.

So yesterday I walked over to the Cingular office downtown here.

I walked right up to the 'service' counter, and the kind people behind the counter asked me what I might need. I told them what had happened, and they were quizzical. More details, still not sure. Let's look that account up. Hmm.

We did sort it out- 94.7 had activated the phone for me under their blanket account, and that account plan had expired- it wasn't that I had to get a new phone, as I had feared, it was just that I either had to endure a possibly futile attempt at phone-based support, or get a new phone number.

I don't use the phone that much, so, I went for the new number.

The guy who helped me was quick, knowledgeable, polite, friendly, and he took care of all that, even got my phone numbers migrated across... now that's service.

I'd say "great job, cingular!", except this was a case of "great job, guy who gives a crap about the quality of the work he does!"

Oh, and avoid the blue-and-orange Fastcard/cingular cards which Fred Meyer sells- so says the cute rectangle-glasses wearing girl who calls everyone 'sir'.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sony Portable MP3 Player

Well, I guess I should have known better.

The $119 Sony 2gb USB-drive style player, model NW-E005F, is nothing more than an inkjet printer.

An inkjet printer is a doorstop waiting to happen. For somewhere in the range of $40 to what I'd call "way too expensive" ($100+), you can buy an inkjet printer. The come in a glossy, high-res box with images of: the impressive device, the multitude of functions, the possible outcome of using the printer, and lots of boring small text. Included no-where on the box, however, is the asterisk, dagger, or footnote number which explains the true catch of the device. The cartridges cost more than the printer, and this is the true paydirt for the printer-manufacturers.

And now, back to my device.

While it is, apparently, a usb-drive-like device, it does not function without a software package called 'sonicstage' (read: itunes), which, yet further, is linked to an online music purchase service called 'connect', and yet further to a CDDB service called 'Harmony'. Now, all these associations would seem quite innocent if it were not for the fact that without screwing with the here's-your-user-interface in sonicstage, you cannot play anything with your fancy 2GB player at all.

So, you're locked into their format, because the player does not use a windows file structure, and you cannot simply copy files onto it (say, with file explorer) and play them.

Furthermore, if you want the 5 'free' tracks that come with the device you have to divulge your credit card number, and if you'd also like the loving help of the non-standard, non-free 'CDDB' 'service', you have to register for that, too.

And, last but not least insulting, if you do not register your 'atrac' device, you can only copy files onto it from one location.

Please, dog, tell me someone has hacked these things and I can dump all this crap and just use the damn device.

Clearly, the $119 price was subsidized by all kinds of different businesses all hoping to cash in on the intrepid, new-to-all-this, >sucker<.

And, as the old saying goes: you get what you pay for, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I will give it this- at least once you are all done futzing with it, it actually works, and pretty well. Still. The level of BS is completely unforgivable.

Dear Sony:

When you go bankrupt from putting everything you were worth into the Playstation 3 blu-ray technology and then failing in the console market because Microsoft made their HDDVD player optional, I'll have to say at least a muffled "Ha ha", while, as you got my money out of me on more than one occasion, this is to be the last.

Yours truly,