Thursday, September 18, 2008

There is no buffer time here...

I never really realized how much of a break driving home from school and work was, and how relaxing it could be, until I moved here. The "relax" time has gotten progressively shorter and shorter since I've been moving away from rural living and moving towards the most urban of urban settings. The school/work to home commute has gone from a very enjoyable, relaxing and windy drive through the forest to a smog-filled jaunt through the streets and freeways of suburbia to literally being crammed into an overcrowded subway car. Once you start to walk towards the open doors you just keep getting pushed from behind until there's literally only enough room to breathe, and sometimes you're not even able to breathe fully. You're also crammed into a car full of commuters going down to wall street and showing up to their highly stressful jobs only to have heart attacks and add to their ulcers, all so they can make a pretty penny. A big departure from the windy trek that let us unwind going up (and down) Highway 9. Even living in suburbia we had that "buffer" time between the stresses of work/school that let you unwind and clear your mind before you returned home. Here, you're just moving between types (and intensities) of stress - and you're constantly surrounded by them. I think that's what I really miss most about California, and why I miss driving so much.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"It's Time To Rethink Copyright Law"

"Shared" via Facebook link. Original article is located at this address:

Michael Arrington
Tuesday, May 27, 2008; 5:09 AM

There was more posturing today in the big YouTube-Viacom copyright showdown that began around the time that Google acquired YouTube and started talking to big copyright holders about paying them to get their content legally onto the popular video site. It spun out of control from there until it became a billion dollar lawsuit.

Normally I'm on the side of whoever's against the copyright holders and their agenda of ever-expanding rights on these types of issues. They will stop at nothing to preserve their expired business models.

In this case, though, I'm just as afraid of YouTube, which still aims to get rights to show all, or virtually all, professionally produced television and film content. Their goal is simple - copy the adsense model and get the same stranglehold on advertising around video that they have around search.

That may be more difficult for Google than sewing up search was, since there are so many players determined to stop them before they get a proper foothold. The music guys got hooked on the iTunes fees and still haven't been able to get off the juice. Their tv and film cousins are fully aware of what happens if a single middleman gets too much power.

What's Best For The Internet?

The front lines of the copyright war are the ISP and service provider skirmishes. The MPAA and RIAA continue to fight consumers directly, of course, but their only real chance of locking down the Internet and file trading/steaming is to go after the companies that allow it to happen. In 1998 the DMCA made copyright infringement even more illegal than it already was, but also gave service providers a safe harbor to protect them against infringement by their users.

Did/does YouTube properly comply with the DMCA? That's pretty much irrelevant at this point. What matters is the law going forward. And since this case is likely to go to trial, there's a good chance that new law will be created. Exactly what is decided, and how Congress reacts, will have a big impact on the Internet going forward.

My position is that it's bad to criminalize natural behavior. And watching a clip of The Office, whether it's legally on Hulu or illegally on YouTube is natural behavior. The only question is whether or not people are getting sued, or going to jail, for doing it.

It's time to rethink copyright laws, and it's time for copyright holders to rethink their business models. The winners won't be the companies that win or lose billion dollar lawsuits. It'll be the companies that throw out everything that's come before, and build new businesses around the natural behavior of people. Remove friction and win.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2008 Update

I know, I know. It's been an extremely long time since I've even looked at this blog. But I thought I'd give you all an update as to what's been happening in the past 6 months or so. I'm now fully moved in to our brand new apartment in the city. It's pretty amazing if I do say so myself, and if I had to pick out its best features I would have to say A) The location, by far; and B) the aged brick wall that gives it so much character. I'll post pictures on Facebook soon, I just have to reduce them so they can be uploaded.

School just ended the week before last, so that's a huge relief. I already got my grades, and I'm extremely happy with them. I'm well on my way to completing both the Politics and the History major. Next semester I'm taking Civil Liberties, The Molecules of Life (for Nat Sci II), Food and Drugs in Chinese History, and History of Modern Ireland. So if you're in any of my classes, let me know!

I finally got an extremely well paying job at a law firm. No more being a host, no more retail, no more cashiering. I'm a full-blown paralegal for Silverstein & Stern. So over summer I'm working M-F 9-5, and during the school year I'm working Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays part time. I absolutely love the work there, my bosses, and my coworkers, so I have a feeling I'll be settling in there for quite some time. Who knows, I might end up working there as an attorney. The office is down at 40 Fulton (the Thomas Edison Building), so those of you in Water or Cliff next year we need to have lunch and hang out during the week!

Plus, probably the biggest news of all, I'm happily taken!

Well, if I'm bored over summer (which is likely to happen as most of you guys went back home and ditched me) I'll continue to post here. Until then, arrivaderci!

Friday, November 02, 2007

War on Terror

Here is something to think about.

thought out and presented.

Historical Significance

Sixty-three years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all
of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat . The
Nazis had sunk more than 400 British ships in their convoys between England
and America taking food and war materials .

At that time the US was in an isolationist, pacifist mood,
and most Americans wanted nothing to do with the European or the Asian war .

Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in
outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on
Germany, who had not yet attacked us. It was a dicey thing. We had few

France was not an ally, as the Vichy government of France
quickly aligned itself with its German occupiers. Germany was certainly not
an ally, as Hitler was intent on setting up a Thousand Year Reich in Europe.
Japan was not an ally, as it was well on its way to owning and controlling
all of Asia.

Together, Japan and Germany had long-range plans of invading
Canada and Mexico, as launching pads to get into the United States over
ournorthern and southern borders, after they finished gaining control of
Asia and Europe.

America's only allies then were England, Ireland, Scotland,
Canada, Australia, and Russia. That was about it All of Europe, from Norway
toItaly (except Russia in the East) was already under the Nazi heel.

The US was certainly not prepared for war. The US had
drastically downgraded most of its military forces after WW I because of the
depression, so that at the outbreak of WW II, Army units were training with
broomsticks because they didn't have guns, and cars with "tank" painted on
the doors because they didn't have real tanks. A huge chunk of our Navy had
just been sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor.

Britain had already gone bankrupt, saved only by the
donation of $600 million in gold bullion in the Bank of England (that was
actually the property of Belgium ) given by Belgium to England to carry on
the war when Belgium was overrun by Hitler (a little known fact).

Actually, Belgium surrendered on one day, because it was
unable to oppose the German invasion, and the Germans bombed Brussels into
rubble the next day just to prove they could.

Britain had already been holding out for two years in the
face of staggering losses and the near decimation of its Royal Air Force in
the Battle of Britain, and was saved from being overrun by Germany only
because Hitler made the mistake of thinking the Brits were a relatively
minor threat that could be dealt with later. Hitler, first turned his
attention to Russia, in the late summer of 1940 at a time when England was
on the verge of collapse.

Ironically, Russia saved America's butt by putting up a
desperate fight for two years, until the US got geared up to begin hammering
away at Germany

Russia lost something like 24,000,000 people in the sieges
of Stalingrad and Moscow alone...90% of them from cold and starvation,
mostly civilians, but also more than a 1,000,000 soldiers.

Had Russia surrendered, Hitler would have been able to focus
his entire war effort against the Brits, then America. If that had happened,
the Nazis could possibly have won the war.

All of this has been brought out to illustrate that turning
points in history are often dicey things. Now, we find ourselves at another
one of those key moments in history.

There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has,
or wants, and may soon have, the ability to deliver small nuclear,
biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world

The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in
Kaffiyahs --they believe that Islam, a radically conservative form of
Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe,
then the world. To them, all who do not bow to their will of thinking should
be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust,
destroy Israel, and purge the world of Jews. This is their mantra. (goal)

There is also a civil war raging in the Middle East -- for
the most part not a hot war, but a war of ideas. Islam is having its
Inquisition and its Reformation, but it is not yet known which side will win
-- the Inquisitors, or the Reformationists.

If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, the Jihadis,
will control the Middle East, the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian

The techno-industrial economies will be at the mercy of OPEC
-- not an OPEC dominated by the ed ucated, rational Saudis of today, but an
OPEC dominated by the Jihadis. Do you want gas in your car? Do you want
heating oil next winter? Do you want the dollar to be worth anything? You
had better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic
Reformation wins.

If the Reformation movement wins, that is, the moderate
Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions,
live in peace with the rest of the world, and move out of the 10th century
into the 21st, then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade
away. A moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.

We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have
to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda
and the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. We can't do
it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle at a
time and place of our choosing . . . in Iraq. Not in New York , not in
London, or Paris or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we are doing two important

(1) We deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether Saddam Hussein was
directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack or not, it is undisputed that
Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades.
Saddam is a terrorist! Saddam is, or was, a weapon of mass destruction,
responsible for the deaths of probably more than a 1,000,000 Iraqis and
2,000,000 Iranians.

(2) We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point,
with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle. We are killing
bad people, and the ones we get there we won't have to get here. We also
have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a
catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East, and an
outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for
as long as it is needed.

WW II, the war with the Japanese and German Nazis, really
began with a "whimper" in 1928. It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began
with the Japanese invasion of China. It was a war for fourteen years before
the US joined it. It officially ended in 1945 -- a 17 year war -- and was
followed by another decade of US occupation in Germany and Japan to get
those countries reconstructed and running on their own a gain...a 27 year

WW II cost the United States an amount equal to
approximately a full year's GDP -- adjusted for inflation, equal to about
$12 trillion dollars. WW II cost America more than 400,000 soldiers killed
in action, and nearly 100,000 still missing in action.

The Iraq war has, so far, cost the United States about
$160,000,000,000, which is roughly what the 9/11 terrorist attack cost New
York. It has also cost about 3,000 American lives, which is roughly
equivilant to lives that the Jihad killed (within the United States) in the
9/11 terrorist attack

The cost of not fighting and winning WW II would have been
unimaginably greater -- a world dominated by Japanese Imperialism and German
Nazism .

This is not a 60-Minutes TV show, or a 2-hour movie in which
everything comes out okay. The real world is not like that. It is messy,
uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. It always has been, and probably
always will be

The bottom line is that we will have to deal with Islamic
terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away if we
ignore it.

If the US can create a reasonably democratic and stable
Iraq, then we have an ally, like England , in the Middle East, a platform,
from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East. The
history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility
and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates to conquer the

The Iraq War is merely another battle in this ancient and
never ending war. Now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to
get nuclear weapons. Unless some body prevents them from getting them.

We have four options:

1. We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear

2. We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear
weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran 's progress on nuclear
weapons is what Iran claims it is).

3. We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in
the Middle East now; in Europe in the next few years or decades, and
ultimately in America.


4. We can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when
the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has
dominated France and Germany and possibly most of the rest of Europe. It
will, of course, be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier.

If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your
children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs
and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.

The history of the world is the history of civilization
clashes, cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what
society and civilization should be like, and the most determined always win.

Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win.
The pacifists always lose, because the anti-pacifists kill them.

Remember, perspective is every thing, and America's schools
teach too ittle history for perspective to be clear, especially in the young
American mind.

The Cold War lasted from about 1947 at least until the
Berlin Wall came down in 1989; forty-two years!

Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting
Napoleon, and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany!

World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten year
occupation, and the US still has troops in Germany and Japan. World War II
resulted in the death of more than 50,000,000 people, maybe more than
100,000,000 people, depending on which estimates you accept.

The US has taken more than 3,000 killed in action in Iraq.
The US took more than 4,000 killed in action on the morning of June 6, 1944,
the first day of the Normandy Invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism.

In WW II the US averaged 2,000 KIA a week -- for four years.
Most of the individual battles of WW II lost more Americans than the entire
Iraq war has done so far.

The stakes are at least as high... A world dominated by
representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal
freedoms...or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, by
the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia (Islamic law).

It's difficult to understand why the average American does
not grasp this. They favor human rights, civil rights, liberty and freedom,
but evidently not for Iraqis.

"Peace Activists" always seem to demonstrate here in America
, where it's safe. Why don't we see Peace Activist demonstrating in Iran,
Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places that really need peace
activism the most? I'll tell you why! They would be killed!

The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights,
civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad
wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights,
democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc.

Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down
on the side of their own worst enemy!

Please consider passing along copies of this article to
students in high school, college and university as it contains information
about the American past that is very meaningful today -- history about
America that very likely is completely unknown by them (and their
instructors, too). By being denied the facts of our history, they are at a
decided disadvantage when it comes to reasoning and thinking through the
issues of today. They are prime targets for misinformation campaigns beamed
at enlisting them in causes and beliefs that are special interest agenda

Raymond S. Kraft is a writer living in Northern California
that has studied the Middle Eastern culture and religion.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A certain type of law...

"...To these three sorts of law must be added a fourth, the most important of all, which is inscribed neither on marble nor breass, but in the hearts of the citizens, a law which forms to true constitution of the state, a law which gathers new strength every day and which, when other laws age or wither away, reanimates or replaces them; a law which sustains a nation in the spirit of its institution and imperceptibly substitutes the force of habit for the force of authority. I refer to morals, customs, and, above all, belief: this feature, unknown to our political theorists, is the one on which the success of all the other laws depends; it is the feature on which the great law-giver bestows his secret care, for though he seems to confine himself to detailed legal enactments, which are really only the arching of the vault, he knows that morals, which develop more slowly, ultimately become its immovable keystone."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Inspiration can come at any time

"Well, I should probably head up to class...even though I'd love to stay and finish my coffee while we discuss hormones." I returned the spent cappuccino to the coffee bar that I get coffee at every monday and wednesday, and started up the stairs. I walked into the classroom, and the guest speaker, whom the only thing I knew about at the time was that he wrote the book, The Ha-Ha. I pulled up a chair and joined the semicircle of my classmates that had already formed around him.

The author, Dave King, introduced himself and gave a brief summary of his background and what inspired him to write the book, after the last few stragglers walked in. Then he proceeded to give a brief outline of the book, and as soon as he described the main character I was amazed - even though he is a fictional character, he sounded like a similar person to my dad (drafted into Vietnam, was blown up from a land mine, and it sounded to me as if he had PTSD).

Later came an intense Q&A session, and I immediately asked him if the main character did indeed have PTSD, and when he answered that although the term did not exist right after Vietnam, a modern psychiatrist would most likely diagnose him with the disorder. I was floored; from then on, I listened intently to every word he said. From what he was saying, namely that he went from doing something completely different form what he originally started doing, which was painting and art in college, he turned his life around, even though he was a successful businessman who had built up his business from scratch. One day, a friend called him and profoundly changed his mentality towards what he was doing with his life, and he decided to pursue his passion of creative (and specifically fictional) writing. He went back to grad school at Columbia, and graduated with his thesis, which was an early version of The Ha-Ha.

Then the selling point for me came when I asked him about how he went about publishing his work: he started publishing to literary magazines and to The New Yorker, and a literary agent saw him on the train who happened to hear a rumor about his New Yorker submissions. And BAM! His novel is now a nationwide bestseller. And that's what inspired me.

It really opened up my eyes and made me realize, I don't mind doing math, but I wouldn't want to do it 24/7...actually, who am I kidding, I hate math. I'm not bad at it by any means, but it just isn't for me. I know for sure that I want to major in Politics (specifically American politics), and eventually do law, but I was confused as to what I was going to have my second major in, or if I was going to even double major, or what I was going to minor in if I wasn't. I originally thought it would be Econ, but now because of today I changed my mind. I'm going to double minor, in pre-business and creative writing. Although I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to double minor with the credit limits that NYU has (they're really're only allowed to take 18 credits, which translates into three regular classes and a class that has a lab). Pre-business is a 9-class minor, and a creative writing minor is another 4 classes. For the Politics major, I have to take 10 more classes, for a total of 23 classes. I have 3 years to go, with 8 classes per year, so I might just make it. If not, I'll just take a class or two in creative writing and call it a day.

So randomly, I met this author from New York in Italy in one of my classes who probably profoundly changed my life - in the course of an hour. Inspiration can come at any time.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Try, try again

Just talked to Rasaalika yesterday, and it's now confirmed that we're going skydiving on Monday (weather permitting, of course). I looked at the weather forecast and it looks like it's going to be a perfect day: 72 degrees (22 Celsius) and not a cloud in sight. What a wonderful birthday treat (even though it's the 10th not the 9th)!

Also on Monday: Matt, Andy, Dean and I are all picking our room for NYU in NYC. We're getting an apartment-style dorm, with a kitchen, dining/living room and two bedrooms for the four of us. Most likely we'll be overlooking Union Square, which is about a 5 minute walk from campus, but we could also have a view of the Staten Island Ferries and the waterfront, although that residence hall is pretty far from campus and would be about a 15 minute subway ride each way. I'll post again to let you know which one we got into, so we can start taking reservations throughout the year for friends and family members who want to visit NYC for free.

Either way, I'm lovin' it.