Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Test


They say if you spend too much time alone, you go mad. First you start talking to yourself and start displaying various signs of mental distress. Then you start coming up with schemes to get out of whatever circumstances you are currently in. But when they all fail, you start plotting revenge.

But is it revenge, really? Maybe not. Maybe what one is plotting is merely a way of exposing who is really a person of character, willing to do the right thing, and who is not worthy of the label “human”. Perhaps one can construct a test to reveal the poseurs for what they are, scum of the worst type, the hypocrite.

And so, like Diogenes of Sinope whose search for an honest person commended him to be the subject of so many works of art, perhaps I will run a series of informal tests to see who among my friends and colleagues are willing to lift one finger, make one phone call, send one email, in order to end my distress.

Why not? I am stuck here anyway. Why not have some fun?

The Academy and Its Invitations 2017


If there had not been such a brouhaha about “diversity” and the “motion picture industry”, I might not have discovered which of my friends and acquaintances have been invited to be members of the Academy. But since the Academy is working hard to include more women and people of color into their membership, the list becomes news, and so I reviewed it.

And there is good news and bad news in it. First and foremost, although it is indeed a kind of honor to be a member of the Academy, and it does entail some nice privileges, it does not mean that because you are a member that (a) you have any power or (b) that you will ever work again. It certainly doesnt hurt though, and it is no small thing to be a member of an elite club. Especially if you live in LA.

Other good news is that a variety of people I know, some of whom are friends, who probably deserve to be a member of the Academy, are indeed invited. In one notable case, which will not be mentioned by name, there is also one person who is a complete dick. But the others arent dicks, and so with our so small sample size in mind, I think this is a fairly good list.

Leaving out the dick, the people I noticed who I know who are on this list include: Rhonda Gunner (a co-founder of Video Image), Carl Ludwig (a founder of Blue Sky), Raymond Yeung (a good person and one of the annointed keepers of the color spaces), Darwyn Peachey of Pixar (with a name like this you are never forgotten), Jinko Gotoh (a producer associated with CGI since before the beginning) and Brooke Breton (a producer who started with Star Trek and has worked on many projects including the various Avatars).

Congratulations to all of them!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Message Number 4 to Representative Hunter (CA-50)


I am still pressing Duncan Hunter (CA-50) regarding that secret meeting with Pruitt and the Oil and Gas companies. I wonder what was said. Maybe this is what the FOIA is all about.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Progress on an Open Source Software Transcoding Solution


I have been looking for a transcoding solution in software that is professional enough to use for my various purposes. Previously I was using Canopus Procoder 2/3, but Canopus was bought by Greenvalley, which was bought by Thompson, which is now called Technicolor and the product is discontinued. When I last looked at Handbrake, which was a few years ago, it only seemed to be available for the Mac and was too consumer oriented for my needs.

But to my amazement, Handbrake is also available in GUI form for Windows and in command line form for Linux. It is open source and available from France where it is apparently legal to have MP3/MP4/MP2 codecs built into your free software.

Using it on Windows, I have done preliminary tests and it seems to be acceptable. I wont know where the feature gaps are until I use it more. But to begin with, I have been able to excerpt one minute of footage from a high resolution 2 hour mp4 and convert it to various formats and resolutions.

Although it clearly does not give access to all the video features that Canopus Procoder 2/3 did, it does allow you access to some and I wont know if this is sufficient or limiting until I use it a lot more.

It does not appear to have any malware or annoying advertisements.

I wish to emphasize how important the “open source” quality of this software matters to me. Those with money do not need to worry about a product disappearing, they can always buy something else. Those without money need to worry about whether a tool they choose for their work will continue to exist and be available. Open source software, although far from being a panacea for professionals and artists at least has the quality that it is unlikely to just disappear.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Response to the Georgia Special Election of June 20, 2017


The districts we have lost in special elections were always going to be long shots. But I think that the Republicans are correct to feel that they have been somewhat vindicated. Yes, they lost 20 points or so in Georgia and yes that district should not have been even close, but they did win.

Five months into the greatest disaster this country has faced since the War Between the States, and our suburban Southern friends have sent a clear message.

And the message is: racism was OK with them, we need to make sure that local police forces can control minority groups (who arent really Americans anyway), environmental concerns hurt jobs, public schools need to be defunded, the Russians are our friends whose attacks against Hillary was no big deal and gross incompetence at the top is what this country needs.

We need to murder poor women, build oil pipelines through wilderness areas (which always leak, but thats OK, I mean who the f*ck cares?), defund solar energy, defund scientists who dont do what we say, impose the harshest penalties on poor people who step out of line, and always give special tax breaks to the rich.

Trump has had significant successes. Who could not but stand up and cheer when the first thing that Gorsuch did on the Supreme Court was to go out of his way and murder a black man? Take out the revolver, put it to that black man's head and say “we don't know if you are guilty or not, but we are going to shoot you here, I am going to shoot you here because you are poor and black and that is what America stands for. “ And then Gorsuch pulled the trigger.

I don't think that they are lying to us. I think that they are sincerely interested in destroying this country. The Republicans can be proud.

The mayor of New Orleans wrote an incredibly stupid piece about the statues of Confederate leaders a month or so ago. He made claims about why destroying history was the right thing to do. It was a very Stalinist claim about who was “on the right side of history”.

So I ask my fellow Democrats, who is on the right side of history today?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An Argument in Favor of Emailing Your Congressman in Spite of Everything


Those who read this blog are not naive. Neither you nor I believe that merely emailing our Congressional representative has much chance of making a difference. We know what makes a difference which is to say, money, and lots of it. Not protests, not petitions, not emails, and it is up in the air at this point in time whether there is such a thing as free and fair elections as well.

The Russians have apparently been completely successful, successful beyond their wildest expectations, in convincing many if not most Americans that their elections are rigged in favor of established interests. In the same way that the judicial system and economy are rigged.

What the established powers of this country have failed to understand, is that you can not lie and steal the money over and over again, abuse the constitution, and fail to act responsibly without there being long term damage to the Republic. You can kick the can down the road only so far before you run out of road. You can put your right wing thugs on the Supreme Court to steal elections and kill minorities only so often before people judge that Democracy is an empty fraud and probably always has been.

But I am going to encourage everyone I know to naively look beyond this reality and play a game with me, that has only an infinitesimal chance of making a difference. In my heart, I doubt that anything a citizen without a lot of money can do will matter. That dream is over. And it has been over for a very long time.

But just for fun, why not try to scare them.

The House completely turns over every two years. Although the Republicans have done a very good job at destroying any chance of a fair election, they still only have a slight majority in the House. So lets scare them. The last thing any Congressman, Republican or Democrat, wants is an informed and active electorate. An electorate that knows what bills are in front of Congress and tells their Congressman what is expected of them.

If you email or call your representative once a week, and leave a very nice message asking them to do something honest in order to help this country, you can be quite sure they will ignore you.  They will act responsibly only over their dead body. But they also know that for every citizen who emails or calls them, that this individual will probably vote and that means they have to have at least one and preferably two voters on their side to hold onto power. 

The more who call, the more votes they know they have to get.  Uneasy lies the head, etc. 

So I volunteer to do all the startup work for you.  If you will send me your zip code, I will do the research necessary to find out your district, your representative, how to send email, and where to call. I will make this effortless for you. No, it probably wont make a difference, but since we are fucked anyway, and we are, why not?

For what it is worth, I am up to three emails and left one telephone message for my Representative of the 60th California district. It is possible that his office even tried to call me back once.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Qatar, Arms Deals, #45 Tweets and Reality


We can count on our news media to superficially discuss any issue so that the ordinary reader, that is, someone who does not waste their time trying to figure out what is going on, will have no way of understanding a news event.

In this case, there are two events. First #45 tweets that Qatar is a bad country that sponors terrorism, bigly, or something. Second, the SECDEF announces that we are selling US $12 billion of Boeing F15Q air superiority fighters to Qatar.

Of course that doesnt make any sense but here are a few things most articles fail to mention.

First, at 36 F-15s one is no where near the price of $12 B, so I presume that this price includes the total cost of ownership over many years, training, parts, supplies, bribes, and other equipment and services not mentioned (e.g. intelligence related), etc. Second, our largest base in the area is in Qatar and it is out of there that the Central command operates. Third, this is the command that had to be moved out of Saudi Arabia because of course all Americans are infidels and Jews, and so Qatar "taking us in" was something of a favor, depending on how you look at it. Fourth, I would not be surprised to hear that Qatar does sponsor terrorism. Of course, so does Saudi Arabia. The hair's being split here may have something to do with whether it is official govt policy to sponsor "terrorism" or whether it is merely important wealthy individuals from these countries that do. Fifth, there has been for many years a defacto trade going on between us and many middle eastern countries which generally involves us sending them dollars for oil, but they then purchase from us a variety of expensive things, and of course what they mostly want is high tech military equipment. Sixth, I suspect that this issue of terrorism is code for a variety of other things such as the efforts of Iran to dominate the region and to destabilize the Saudi Arabian monarchy. Seventh, I think it is a weak argument to say that if we do not sell them these fighters that other nations will, but it is also true.

It would not surprise me if this deal is the result of promises made years ago. Qatar agrees to let us build an important regional base on their territory and in return they get to buy a variety of things from us. So whether we like it or not, this is likely to be a follow through on deals made in the Bush and Obama administration. Or at least that is my speculation.

Just a reminder that while the F-15 is an incredible airplane which when upgraded is still relevant, it is one thing to buy such a plane, it is another to use it well.

The point of this overly short post (many more things could be said) is that looking at the Tweet from #45 and then looking at a press release on an arms deal that happens a few days later tells us very little about what is going on beyond the already very apparent reality that we have as president someone who is not qualified for the post and has no idea what he is tweeting or what the implications or context really is. And why should he? He is just an overrated rich kid, real estate developer, and bully. What do you expect?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Does It Matter That Someone Has Done It Before?


Generally speaking when I discuss an idea with someone, they invariably say “someone has already done it” with the implication that it would be a mistake for me to spend one second thinking about doing such a product or proving the idea.

Sadly, I have often found the following problems with their advice.

1. It turns out that someone has not already done it.

2. It turns out that even if they have, which they havent, doing it the way I have outlined makes excellent sense.

3. There are many, many examples of people being second or third to market and being *very* successful at it.

4. In all cases I am aware of, had I proceeded with my idea, and all that entailed, at the very worst I would have had an excellent working example of some of the ideas and quality of work and that would have been extremely worthwhile. In other words, at the very least, it would have been good marketing.

So why do I bother asking other people and being discouraged? The reasons are sadly very simple. First, lack of faith in myself. Second, the hope that someone would be willing to work on something with me, which they never want to do. They just want to be negative. They can't help it, they have their own problems.

Can I learn from my mistakes here? It isnt clear, this might actually be a character flaw. And as we all know, how many psychaitrists are needed to change a lightbulb? Only one but the lightbulb has to sincerely want to change.

The other problem is doing anything like a product or startup is hard. Much harder than people who have never done one realize. And without financing it can be nearly impossible unless one is very clever, in the same way someone who makes an excellent low budget movie has to be clever. And it is incredibly hard work.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Finally Called my Congressional Representative


When Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement I decided to finally call my representative after months of procrastination.

It was easy.

I typed “duncan hunter CA-50 phone number” to Google, and it came right up. I called the phone number, and a nice young man (probably an unpaid intern) answered the phone. I asked to be able to leave a message for Representative Hunter. He said sure.

So I gave my name and phone number, told him I lived in Escondido (which is in CA-50's area) and left the message “Could he please impeach Trump and Pence as soon as possible. Thank you”.

And the nice young man said that he would give him the message.

So there you go.

Its all handled.