Health care doesn’t

A friend of mine just informed me that Blue Cross only covers rehab courses if it is an emergency. They define an emergency as showing up to rehab intoxicated, meaning that if you want to send your drunk friend to the clinic you have to buy them a few rounds before dropping them off.
I think part of the reason why health care costs are so high is because so little effort is expended in preventative maintenance. I bet costs would go down if they started subsidizing gym membership.

After the election

If I could ask the two presidential candidates one question it would be this: If you are elected president how will you go about uniting America after this incredibly divisive election?
[Update: Question 19 of the third presidential candidate debate covered this. Kerry said that he would work with both parties, much like Bush said in 2000. Bush said that Washington is too partisan but he’d try in a non-specific way. Both are pretty much non-answers.

E-voting Scandal

There’s a storm brewing. There’s a new way for people to make their voices heard, but problems with the technology and malicious, computer savvy crackers are causing some serious doubts about the results. Many people think that the new electronic vote counters are too flawed to be trusted, especially after the how close the last race was.
No, it’s not Diebold, it’s American Idol.
American Idol Outrage: Your Vote Doesn’t Count (via Links) takes a look into how the votes are being counted, how they’re being manipulated and why. The biggest problem is that they are using phone networks instead of data networks to receive votes.
Because phone networks can be tied up so easily, people with access to industrial strength dialers can attempt to prevent regular people from getting through. While it seems like it’s just a jerk move, they can actually profit by betting on an underdog choice at sites online. Then they flood the lines to prevent the more popular candidate’s votes coming through.
It’s an good study in network security and DDoS attacks, but it should be interesting to see whether people get more upset about failures in the technology controlling American Idol voting or presidential and congressional elections. I really hope that it’s the latter.

On All Things Considered today

On All Things Considered today Cheryl Corley interviewed Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia about the prisoner abuse crimes. This is an excerpt from the clip at 3:24 –

Corley: Your Republican colleague from Oklahoma Tom Cole called this abuse scandal a psychological Pearl Harbor in the Arab world. Do you agree with that at all?
Gingrey: I think to some extent, but you’re talking about psychological Pearl Harbors, 9/11 was a psychological Pearl Harbor in the United States of America, I mean that’s what they did to us. Talking about another psychological blow how about the killing of those 4 defense contractors and dragging their bodies through the streets of Faluja, burning them, torturing them and then hanging them from telephone poles for public display? I don’t condone any mistreatment of prisoners, but my God, when you compare what’s happened to our people it pales in comparison.

I hope for the sake of our country that he’s not saying that 9/11 is what the Iraqis did to us. I know a lot of people think that Iraq was involved in 9/11, but a congressman? Are there links between the Saudi 9/11 hijackers and Iraq that I’m not aware of?

Voter Discouragement Coming From Campaigns?

Wired has a piece today called Blogs Counter Political Plottings that talks about how social software like weblogs and social networking sites are increasing voter turnout. What caught my eye was this admission from Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga:”In a traditional campaign, ‘you strip out all of the people you can’t control — to keep as many out of the process as possible,’ said Moulitsas.”
I’ve heard this before and touched on it briefly when talking about making election day a national holiday, but reading about it in Wired got me a little more pissed off. I tried to find some information to support the claim, but came up empty. Do campaigns actually admit to discouraging voters? If not, is anyone out there watching who is conspiring against voters?
I understand that lower voter turnout makes elections predictable, which is beneficial to both parties, however I think it’s deplorable that we are electing people who don’t want to hear what the people have to say. If we have to beg for a holiday from people who have a vested interest in keeping us from electing our own leaders, that says volumes about our republic.
Still, it makes voting more enjoyable if I know that I’m pissing off politicians.

HOWTO: How and Why You Would Want To Get Ogg Vorbis on iTunes

OGG? OGG? WTF is OGG? I’ll get to that in a moment, and then after I’ve gotten to that I’ll get to two methods for getting Ogg Vorbis files to play in iTunes. One method is insanely easy but will take a while, the second method is much quicker and somewhat harder. Now, I get to the getting to that.
Ogg Vorbis is a free competitor to MP3. “But wait,” you say on cue, “MP3s are, err, free-ish. I don’t have to pay anything to legally encode my legally purchased CDs on a computer that I certainly didn’t win in a bar bet in Tijuana.” That’s right, you don’t have to pay anything, but someone does.
A company called Faunhofer owns several patents that are used with MP3s, and so every time you download an MP3 playing program the maker has to spend money. If you still hate Apple after all they’ve done for you you could download iTunes several billion times and drive them into a much-predicted bankruptcy. (Probably not)
If you or one of your geeky friends wanted to make your own MP3 player you’d have to pay Fraunhofer, even if you gave it away for free. Sure that seems unlikely – considering the free mp3 players available for download – but my girlfriend seems to insist on cooking from scratch when there’s perfectly good meals available in my supermarket’s frozen foods and cereal aisles. My point is that people make all sorts of crazy things from scratch, except she doesn’t have to pay royalties on her excellent pasta salad.
(Aside: MP3 is short for MPEG Audio Layer 3, and MPEG is an acronym for Motion Picture Experts Group. Does that mean that MP3 expands to “Motion Picture 3,” even though it’s an audio format? What’s the matter, did I just blow your mind?)
Am I against giving Fraunhofer their due? Not really, but I’m not champing at the bit to give them money for something the Vorbis people are able to do for free. Should you get rid of all your MP3s and re-encode all your albums as Ogg Vorbis? If you’ve got that much time on your hands, I guess, but I’m not doing it.
What should you do with Ogg Vorbis? If you’re part of the 83% of musicians that provides music online consider putting up Ogg files. When you rip your new music, rip it as Ogg Vorbis. Or you can just listen to LiveJournal Phone Posts and make fun of people for all their drama.
More importantly, why should you use Ogg Vorbis? Well it sounds better. Also, copyright protections are eroding our rights and by using an open format you know that it won’t track users. If you don’t think that file formats are that important, Larry Lessig puts forward an excellent case in Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace for how computer code is creating laws that no citizen can protest.
So now that the advocacy for Ogg Vorbis is out of the way, continue reading for how to get it going in iTunes.

Continue reading “HOWTO: How and Why You Would Want To Get Ogg Vorbis on iTunes”

The Decalogue and Polytheism

In the King James Bible, Exodus 20:3 reads Thou shalt have no other gods before me. If you’re Christian this is part of the first comandmant of the Decalogue, for Jews (note the Jooglebomb) this is part of the second statement of the Decalogue.
The only way I can read this is that there certainly are other gods, and that’s cool, but they aren’t to be worshipped above Yahweh, Jehovah, God. This explanation fits with Exodus 20:5 – Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. A jealous God would certainly order His flock not to put other gods before Him.
So are Christianity and Judaism polytheistic? I’m not thinking in a saints-taking-the-place-of-minor-deities type of polytheism, I’m thinking more of a sure-Zeus-is-real-just-don’t-worship-him deal.